Why Digital Ads Are a Game Changer for Clinical Trial Enrollment Efficiency

October 28, 2017
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As clinical trial sponsors continue to struggle with effective recruitment, the cost of care is soaring to new heights — here’s how digital advertising can dramatically increase trial enrollment efficiency.

It’s no secret that clinical trial expenses are mounting — according to Cutting Edge Information, the average trial rose in cost by 60% between 2008 and 2013, reaching an average of $48,500 per enrolled patient in Phase 3b trials. Tufts research puts the total cost of new prescription drug approval at roughly $2.6 million per drug. These staggering numbers beg a simple question: at what point in the R&D process are trials accumulating the majority of these costs?

Astoundingly, Pharmafocus reports that 27% of total clinical trial costs can be attributed to the patient recruitment process. Even with this significant initial investment, just one in 20 patients end up providing publishable information to researchers, according to PharmaVOICE — which results in 75% of clinical trials failing to meet recruitment deadlines.

It’s clear that sponsors must embrace new tools and strategies if they hope to improve the efficiency of qualified patient recruitment — and in light of the evolving patient path to treatment, digital advertising has emerged as the most cost-effective way to accomplish this goal. With the right approach, recruiters can tap into highly targeted patient segments, engaging prospective trial participants the moment they begin actively searching for new treatment options.

Why Should I Go Digital?

The biggest benefit of digital advertising is that it enables you to deliver personalized messages directly to patients who are actively looking for resources and treatment options. While there are a variety of different ad platforms to choose from, we’ve found that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, usually via Google Adwords, tends to be the most effective choice.

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AdWords allows sponsors to craft keyword-led campaigns in order to differentiate between prospective participants who are looking for treatment options now, as opposed to those who might simply be searching for general support, advice, or information. For example, a more active patient may enter a search query like “osteoporosis treatment,” whereas a more passive patient might search “Parkinson’s symptoms” or “breast cancer support.” The latter patient may not yet be ready to make a decision about treatment, and may deem an advertisement at this stage an unwanted interruption. The former, however, is proactively looking for treatment options, meaning that they might consider the ad a helpful (and actionable) resource.

The result of these targeted, keyword-driven campaigns is typically a lower cost per click (CPC) and a much higher conversion rate, generating more qualified patients at a lower cost than almost any other ad type — especially in comparison to traditional media buys like TV, radio, and print. Moreover, the process is highly trackable, allowing you to continually optimize your campaigns in light of real-time data. Ramp up, ramp down, pause, or A/B test different keywords and targeting options in order to maximize efficiency.

A Match Made in Heaven

The reason digital advertising works so well for clinical trial recruitment is that it capitalizes upon emergent consumer trends and preferences. Today, almost every patient demographic is online, and they’re using the internet to take control of their health and make their own decisions about treatment. By understanding how and when patients use different platforms, sponsors can not only increase their ROI and speed up the enrollment period dramatically — they can also begin to reduce the cost of care in general, helping millions of people across the globe gain access to the medicine and treatments they so desperately need.

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