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Four golden rules for better patient recruitment in market research

From helping pharmaceutical companies make informed decisions to gaining insight into what it’s really like to live with different illnesses, patient market research is an integral part of medical market research. There are of course a number of rules and regulations in place, and even prior to the research itself there are numerous things to consider in the recruitment stage. That’s why we’ve put together a handy’dos and don’ts’  guide for better recruitment to help you source the best possible respondents for your project. Read on for our four golden recruitment rules;

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  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of feasibility testing

Before research begins you need to carry out a thorough feasibility assessment to get an idea of how feasible your project is. Done properly, it will give you the foundations you need on which to build a successful medical research project. First things first, do you have any prior experience in your chosen therapy area that you can refer back to? If not, it’s time to reach out to the experts and carry out exploratory interviews with healthcare professionals and opinion leaders in your therapy area to gain an understanding of what to include in your screener or discussion guide. It’s also important to do your research when it comes to specific drugs or medications, checking the NICE  website or MIMS  for information regarding when medications were approved, usage guidance and whether there are any geographical restrictions.

Analysing any available data from the sponsoring pharmaceutical company will also help you to determine drug usage rates and highlight potential locations for your fieldwork, as well as providing incidence statistics to see if your sample size is achievable. A good fieldwork agency will be able to guide you through all these necessary stages of the feasibility assessment to ensure it is conducted thoroughly.


  1. Do be logical in your recruitment methods

Depending on your chosen recruitment method, qualitative patient recruitment of well-targeted patients can take between four to six weeks. Whichever method you decide on, whether it’s through HCPs or support groups, online or via telephone, you must always wait for the patient to decide whether they want to get involved or not – so it’s important to allow enough time and start looking at your recruitment approach right at the beginning. Your chosen support group or charity might have certain restrictions in place or could need approval from a higher level, whilst HCP finders might need a few weeks to source the right patient – so the sooner you reach out, the sooner you can smooth out any issues.

You should also check with the sponsoring pharma company to see if they have any conflicts with certain support groups or if there are any restrictions in place when it comes to advertising the research. It’s also important to be clear about your objectives from the start. By sending out patient and HCP information sheets outlining the purpose and benefits of the study, what they have to do, who is organising it and what will happen to the results, respondents and finders will be more likely to get on board and boost your response rate.

Patient Recruitment


  1. Do put yourself in the patient’s shoes

With patient-centric recruitment, it goes without saying that the patient and their needs must always come first. If they need to visit a central location to carry out the research, have you provided information on how will they get there? Is there a time of day that will make it easier to access? It’s often worth offering transport to patients, especially those with limited mobility, to increase the likelihood of them taking part.

Once they arrive at the location, have you allowed for any mobility issues or visual impairments? Or have you offered them the option of bringing a caregiver along with them? Such considerations will make patients suffering from severe illnesses feel more at ease and increasingly likely to get involved.

You should also be flexible with any pre-work tasks: if you are working with a small group of patients or a very ill patient type, the chances are that they will be difficult enough to recruit without adding extra work which may put them off. If pre-work is a requirement, make sure it is as simple as possible and consider offering an extra incentive for completing it.


  1. Don’t forget to put a verification plan in place

Having a solid verification plan will help you to ensure that you have managed to recruit the right type of people who fulfill the necessary criteria. To make sure your patients are who they say they are, it’s a good idea to ask them to send photos of their medication with their name on across prior to the research, as well as asking them to bring it with them on the day to confirm their identity and ensure they fit the necessary quotas.

It’s also worth asking patients creativity questions prior to the research so you can get a better understanding of what they will bring to the study. That way, any patients who don’t fit the compulsory quotas or who are not right for your chosen methodology can be replaced before the study begins so you can be sure you gather the best results possible.

Over the years we have built an array of expertise and knowledge in a number of complex areas and as a result have created the GKA Guide to Successful Patient Fieldwork which we want to share with you.

Click below to download our guide: