9 Clinical Trial Recruitment Tools to Try in 2023

Clinical trial recruitment tools can streamline recruitment efforts, saving pharmaceutical companies, drug developers, and other clinical trial sponsors valuable time and resources in the long run. In this article, we will first discuss why clinical trial recruitment is a process that deserves special consideration, and then present 11 practical tools and strategies that sponsors can use to optimize their recruitment efforts.

Recruiting into research studies: Statistics and challenges

Clinical research cannot proceed without volunteer participants. Nonetheless, the recruitment stage represents one of the main challenges in getting trials off the ground; delays and recruitment failures can cost sponsors millions or even lead to complete cancellation of the trial.[1],[2] The statistics can be discouraging, with over 80% of clinical trials unable to meet their recruitment needs on time, and almost 20% being terminated early due to insufficient accrual.[1],[3]

There are some common reasons for such setbacks. First, it is important to recognize that different clinical trials have different target populations, and similar recruitment channels may not work for every clinical trial. Traditional outreach efforts such as physical advertising in local clinics or word-of-mouth physician referrals are generally limited in scope and leave out major portions of the population. Accessibility is sometimes further limited by design study protocols or eligibility criteria that are overly restrictive. A related factor is patient retention, an often overlooked aspect which can weaken the statistical power of a study if patients drop out mid-study.[4]

On the other side of the equation, we have a large portion of the population that is not even aware of the possibility of participating in clinical research.[5] And for those patients who are actively looking for clinical trials, they may not know where to look, or can find it difficult to find transparent and easily digestible information that lets them understand their eligibility and what the trial would entail.

9 Tools and strategies for effective patient recruiting for clinical trials

1. Patient-centric recruitment platforms

Recruitment platforms that empower the patient and connect patients and researchers can help sites get in touch with high-intent patients. Power is a patient-friendly platform that allows patients to search for clinical trials by condition and location, and apply online. Power helps researchers connect with these patients directly and provides researchers insight into eligibility upfront, so researchers can focus on contacting high-intent, high-eligibility patients.

2. Patient networks and patient advocacy organizations

Connecting with patient networks and patient advocacy organizations for specific diseases can provide valuable insight into the daily lives and concerns of a patient population. Such groups can provide insight into the patient’s condition, what they feel is not being addressed or what may be lacking in terms of treatments or support, and also identify the channels they typically use to reach out for support or information regarding their condition. These insights can help in designing recruitment campaigns that more effectively resonate with the target audience and take their needs and experience into consideration.

3. Social media clinical trial marketing

Digital marketing via social media platforms is one of the most promising clinical trial recruitment tools; however, social media advertising channels can become serious cash drains if they are not used correctly.

Clinical trial recruiters require a thorough understanding of social media advertising restrictions, limitations, and ad campaign types to design engaging digital recruitment strategies for clinical trials. For more information, see our guide to designing effective social media recruitment campaigns and our in-depth guide on recruiting via Facebook.

4. Google clinical trial advertising

Another digital approach to recruitment in clinical trials is through search engine campaigns, primarily on high-traffic sites such as Google. With over 80 billion hits a month, Google can provide access to a mass audience like no other, and is becoming an increasingly relevant player in trial recruitment.[4] For more information, refer to our guide on clinical trial recruitment with Google ads.

5. Trial Innovation Network and Recruitment Innovation Center toolkit

If you are looking to restructure your entire recruitment approach, consider consulting the online recruitment toolkit offered by the Trial Innovation Network and Recruitment Innovation Center, available in PDF format for free download.

This toolkit is packed with information such as design guidelines, resources, templates, and general tips that can be helpful in building a recruitment framework and provide a foundation for further customization.

6. eConsent

Solutions like eConsent can improve the patient experience regardless of the type of study. Through eConsent, patients can be given access to complete trial information in a way that is more interactive, clear, and engaging. These factors can enhance participant comprehension of the trial requirements and protocol, and can create a more seamless experience for the patient as they move on to the screening process. For more information, refer to our guide to eConsent.

7. Digital pre-screening

Digital pre-screening tools can help minimize screen failures by providing insight into patient eligibility based on specific factors before patients come in for full screening. Power’s online platform allows participants to answer a series of quick questions to verify their eligibility against the trial’s inclusion and exclusion criteria. These questions serve as convenient, automated pre-screening filters for the trial sponsor.

8. Create educational content to engage participants

Potential participants are generally more likely to participate in clinical research when they have a more thorough understanding of clinical research, healthcare, and their condition in general, or in other words, when they are more actively involved in their own healthcare decisions.

In general, trial recruitment efforts could be improved by developing and sharing engaging and educational online content to educate participants. Such content could include podcasts, videos, or blog posts on various topics related to clinical trials, such as:

  • Success stories and past trial results, to foster transparency
  • Medical advancements and new breakthroughs, to generate interest
  • Developments in trial models and study designs that are patient-centric or decentralized

9. Partner with recruitment agencies and specialists

Finding the right combination of clinical trial recruitment tools for a trial’s needs can be a complex task. There are agencies and specialists dedicated to developing tailored clinical trial patient recruitment strategies and such agencies could be contracted as partners to help with specific aspects of recruitment, or the entire recruitment process can be outsourced. Some CROs also offer recruitment as part of their overall clinical trial services. We have published an article discussing some of the top clinical trial patient recruitment agencies.


Given the multitude of different methods and tools available for clinical research recruitment, it is worth investing some time and thought into developing a strategy that is right for your specific trial and resonates with your target population. Successful recruitment efforts are likely to leverage a combination of these approaches, and we hope that this guide has provided some useful insight to help you optimize accrual rates for your next trial.