Navigation Menu

4 Steps to Run a Successful Patient Advertising Campaign

You've nailed down your outbound patient recruitment campaign. Now take your patient recruitment to the next level-- boost patient enrollment in your clinical trial study!



In an earlier post, I described the eight best practices to running an effective patient recruitment campaign, where a research site directs their efforts towards calling a list of prospective patients.

However, boosting your patient enrollment will most likely take more than just one recruitment strategy. Not only must you pursue outbound leads (calling prospective patients), but you must also strategize to bring in inbound leads. In this post, I will discuss five best practices for running effective patient recruitment advertising campaigns.

ideas to recruit more clinical trial patients

  1. Know Your Patient Advertising Metrics

    Try different patient recruitment advertising campaigns! Experiment with different types of media and how they affect patient recruitment for different types of indications. The key metrics to understand are:

    • Cost per lead: This metric is the cost of the advertisement divided by the number of leads that came in
    • Cost per screen: This is the cost of the advertisement divided by the number of leads who screened

    These metrics can vary widely based on the advertising venue, your site's geographic area, and the indication. For instance, cost per lead can range from under $20 to over $500.

    Cost per screen can vary even more widely since this metric introduces the variability that comes from the relative difficulty of the eligibility criteria. It can also vary significantly with the number of patients you screen – for instance, if you spent $3,000 to generate 30 leads, and screened 3, your cost per screen would be $1,000. Had you screened 2 instead, your cost per screen would be $1,500.

    For that reason, when comparing effectiveness of leads across studies, it's best to use the cost-per-lead metric. When comparing effectiveness of leads within a study, it's best to use cost-per-screen, keeping in mind that there is a significant variation in "true" cost due to the variability from small numbers.

    social media for clinical trial patient recruitment

    Wondering what media campaign to start with? Try social media! Read the article: Steps for Using Social Media for Better Patient Recruiting

  2. Build Patient-Friendly Landing Pages and Track Traffic Metrics

    Most advertisement channels today are online. Even offline forms of advertising often direct the viewer to an online page, where user data is captured. For this reason, it is important to have a "landing page," which is the page where interested prospective patients will initially get directed to. When running a Facebook campaign, for instance, you are not going to have a sign-up form in the Facebook ad itself; instead, the Facebook ad would direct the prospective patient to your landing page, where you can then capture their information. When building a landing page, be sure to keep it patient friendly-- easy to follow and simple to sign up.

    A landing page could be a generic or more specific. If generic, you could use a single "sign up here" webform for all inbound leads. If study specific, your landing page have a webform and content specific for a particular research study. A study-specific landing page, of course, takes more time (and cost) to build, but has the advantage of allowing you to present study-specific information, as well as more easily identify the basis of the patient's interest.

    One of the great advantages of a landing page is that you can find out where each lead came from, the overall number of visitors to your page ("page views"), and how long prospective patients stayed on the page ("bounce rate"). These metrics will give you feedback on how effective your landing page is. For instance, if your landing page is getting a lot of impressions but has a high bounce, it could indicate that something about the way the study is presented is off putting to patients, so they do not stay on the page long enough to fill out your webform. Alternatively, it could mean that you're generating a lot of underlying click-throughs from your online advertising campaign, but the visitors are not a good fit for research, which is resulting in lower advertising ROI.

  3. Arrange Transportation to your Clinical Trial Site

    Advertising by definition provides leads from prospective patients who are new to your clinical research site. Thus, you need to be able to address one of the most critical potential barriers to participating in a clinical trial: transportation.

    If your clinical research site is not easily accessible through public transportation, consider paying for an Uber or Lyft ride to bring in the prospective patient. This transportation cost may add $40 to your screening visit, but that fee is a small fraction compared to the dollar value of a completed patient. If patients have to pay for parking, by all means offer to cover the cost of parking!

  4. Get the Budgets Covered by Sponsors

    Always seek to get an advertising budget approved in the initial round of sponsor budget negotiations. If you anticipate having to pay for transportation, consider asking the sponsor for a per-visit transportation allowance on an as-needed, past-through basis. For difficult-to-enroll studies, or for screening visits that take a long time, some sponsors are willing to pay for overnight accommodations and meals.

    items to add to your clinical trial budget

    Did you know you could also add these items into your clinical trial budget (in addition to Advertising for Recruitment)!

    If you perform well on a study, and the study still has several months to go before enrollment closes, you should consider asking your sponsor for an advertising allotment. When asking for additional funds, be ready to provide a plan and rationale, such as the number of patient leads and potential randomizations. A lot of sponsors are receptive to providing $5,000 in additional advertising if you have a persuasive case.

Should I Invest in Patient Advertising Out of Pocket?

Since many studies pay anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000+ per completed patient, advertising can be a very high form of ROI. For that reason, some of the highest enrolling clinical trial sites will pay out of pocket for advertising-- meaning these sites will invest their own funds into patient advertising campaigns.

Although initially painful, funding patient advertising campaigns can bring especially positive ROI when you're running multiple research studies in the same or overlapping conditions. For instance, if you're a psychiatry research site, you may have multiple ongoing depression studies and a bipolar study. You may be able to craft a generic advertisement (remember to get this IRB-approved) for prospective patients struggling with "feeling down," who may be open to participating in an investigational study.

The right CTMS can make a huge difference

As mentioned in my previous post, 8 Steps to Run an Effective Patient Recruitment Campaign, having a good "CTMS" or "Clinical Trial Management System" is essential. A good CTMS system will allow you to track and report on the source of each patient lead, allowing you to create clear metrics on the performance of each advertising channel. CTMS can also support your ongoing invoicing obligations to get reimbursed for advertising dollars. It can even have leads integration, meaning that when patients sign up on your landing page, the data flows through directly to the CTMS.

shopping for CTMS?

Not sure where to start when shopping for a new CTMS? Check out this quick cheat sheet.


Raymond, CRIO's co-founder

Raymond Nomizu is a Harvard-trained lawyer and former clinical trial site owner; during the operation of his site, he realized that there should be a better software solution for clinical trials. This prompted him to co-found Clinical Research IO, whose eSource and CTMS solutions are now considered some of the best in the industry. Read more about us here.

the sky's the limit to learning

Get new articles every
other week to your inbox