Why do we need support groups for patient recruitment?
Support groups provide a place for patients and family members to come together to educate, comfort and give strength to one another when dealing with disease or illness. With thousands of members who also fit a variety of research criteria, support groups not only greatly benefit patients, but are also a vital source for patient recruitment in medical fieldwork, enabling researchers to reach out to a totally new sample of respondents. Support groups often have various ways of contacting patients – whether online, through written newsletters, via social media and websites or during face-to-face group sessions – meaning that they can not only help spread the word to their members about upcoming research projects, but that the respondents are also easy to contact and can be sourced according to individual market research projects. Patients will also be more likely to participate if the invite for the research is coming from a source they trust such as a support group.
How to conduct patient recruitment using support groups
When utilising support groups to conduct patient recruitment, there are a number of things that can make the process go more smoothly and more successful ensuring that you get the most from the support group, especially when reaching out to patients who are suffering from sensitive issues such as chronic and sometimes terminal diseases:
Be clear about the process
In every market research scenario, and especially with medical fieldwork, both the support group and the patients will be more cooperative and comfortable if they know what to expect. Therefore, the most important thing when engaging with support groups for patient recruitment is for the market research company to clearly explain right from the beginning who they are, what the respondent needs to do and why, who the sponsoring client is and how it will benefit the patient.
Support the support group
The support group’s main priority will always be the wellbeing of the patient and their family, which is why market research companies should provide as much help as possible so that the group’s focus can remain on the patients. A good way to do this is by providing extra information such as who the sponsoring client is, what the topic is, why the research is being conducted, what will be done with the results of the research. Providing the support group with this type of information will mean they don’t have to worry about doing any additional work and can provide the relevant information to the patients upfront.
Give plenty of time
Depending on the methods used by the support groups to circulate information to patients, recruiting can often take four to six weeks, or sometimes even longer. It is also important to remember that the ball is always in the patient’s court as to whether they decide to get in touch or not, so researchers must ensure they allow an adequate amount of time and start investigating which support groups to approach right at the beginning of the project.
If you do all the hard work for the support group it will enable them to start recruitment for you much quicker as it means less work for them and less work on top of an already busy schedule.
Speak to the right person
To speed up the process as much as possible, researchers or recruiters should make sure they are speaking to the right person in the support group and not wasting any time speaking to the wrong staff members. Identifying the right person to speak to and targeting them directly can really help to speed things up, it would be worth spending some time researching the support groups and who the main contacts are. This can be done using the support group website, Linked In or other social media platforms. Ensuring that you are using a market research company with a strong network can also help to ensure you are targeting important key decision makers.
Keep communication regular
Once the recruitment process begins, it is important to keep support groups in the loop about how the project is progressing without hassling them or taking their attention away from the patients. Weekly phone calls to catch up with key contacts is the best way to ensure everybody is informed about the status of the project and that the research project isn’t forgotten about without coming across as being too pushy or demanding. This way you can be on hand and open to questions which will be encouraging for the support group.
Offer an incentive
As with all market research projects, it is normal for market research companies to offer some form of incentive to thank the participants for their time. One of the best incentives for support groups is to offer a donation for each patient recruited or an overall amount for helping with the project.
Work in partnership
By working together with the support group and staying in regular communication throughout, market research companies can ensure that they are getting the very best insight from patients, which in turn benefits everyone involved.
Patient recruitment can be complex and finding the right patients is just the beginning. If you would like more help and advice on ensuring your patient research studies are a success, download our guide to successful patient fieldwork: