Just getting started? Preclinical stage means time to engage

An old saying notes that the early bird gets the worm.

Because that holds true in the world of clinical trials, savvy trial managers are ramping up their engagement with potential participants during preclinical stages.

Focusing on marketing and scientific feasibility all at once can be challenging, as personnel handling those functions are often siloed and not well versed in such collaboration, according to a recent IBM study on effective recruitment. But getting the marketing ball rolling early can be a major asset when it comes to nurturing leads that could turn into viable trialists once the study moves forward.

“Overall, pre-trial planning is reactive rather than proactive, with little or no contingency planning,” the authors report. “(But) time is money in the pharmaceutical industry. In the pre-clinical trial stage, the first step is to build a dedicated team responsible for patient recruitment that establishes objectives, builds a project plan and involves both discovery and marketing at an early stage.”

In a perfect world, then, trial managers should be ready to hit the ground running as soon as preclinical work is accomplished. Those wishing to be proactive in building databases of potential trialists early on might enact the following:

  • As soon as possible, establish a marketing/recruitment budget and apportion it to different study stages.
  • Understand your legal and corporate limitations regarding recruitment.
  • Work on branding your study to help it stand out from others.
  • For your marketing plan, take time to understand patient emotions, perspectives and pain points, avoiding assumptions about their struggles.
  • Know early on what’s being offered to trialists in return for their participation.
  • Appeal to trialists as human beings, not subjects. Communicate in layman’s terms and avoid medical jargon.
  • Assemble or secure from your sponsor print collateral (or just the templates) you’ll need for recruiting.
  • Optimize analytics tools that can harness big data to help you find trialists.
  • Partner with local therapeutic associations, health organizations and support groups for information disbursement and/or meetings. Secure their mailing lists when possible.
  • Start optimizing your physician networks for referrals and recruitment suggestions.
  • Train your staff in your requirements and your recruitment techniques.
  • Consider offering free services such as health, memory or blood pressure screenings that could increase your exposure.
  • Show solidarity by participating in fundraisers and charities related to your research.
  • Promote your trial on your website, optimizing a click button for those requesting info. Including a blog of interest to your audiences can help with SEO.
  • Build trust on social media, starting conversations via health polls, questions and tips aligning with sponsor and IRB guidelines. Demonstrate personality, aiming to educate, entertain and inspire.
  • Recruit via free resources such as Craigslist or press releases.
  • Respond quickly to inquiries so interested parties see your campaign is well managed.
  • Go overboard to show appreciation and respect to potential trialists. Keep them posted on what’s next in the process, and notify them immediately when dates, trial conditions or requirements change.
  • Anticipate which processes can be automated once the trial starts, and install the cloud-based software that can make that happen.
  • Hire a well-organized recruitment manager who can multitask, is a great communicator and is well liked by others.

Being proactive about forming relationships with potential trialists early in the research process can only help smooth the way once more formal recruitment begins.

“Delays in clinical trials keep pharmaceutical companies from their essential goal: being first to the marketplace with innovative new drugs,” note the IBM study authors. “When patient recruitment is inefficient, valuable investment expense is wasted and precious time is lost — as are potential profits and competitive edge.”

Talk to Artcraft Health about further strategy aimed at achieving success with your clinical trial.

BlogLindsey Kuhl