No matter what innovations take place in the pharmaceutical industry, one area of clinical development has always been the bane of clinical operations teams: recruitment. All the scientific knowledge in the world isn't enough to create a successful trial if you can't get the recruiting component of the study correct.

Because of this, there is a lot of emphasis placed on figuring out where in the recruiting process improvements can be made, and points of friction can be removed. One point of friction that recently came up in new research is the way in which clinical operations teams are speaking, or aren't speaking, to their healthcare industry counterparts.

The Research

In a recent survey conducted by the Tuft’s Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD), Ken Goetz highlights that poor communications between clinical research personnel and healthcare providers is contributing to low recruitment rates.  (See article in Outsourcing This study involving 2,000 physicians and nurses cited four main reasons for not referring patients into clinical trials: 

  • inability to access information
  • insufficient information
  • time 
  • visibility into patient study results


A Touchy Subject

We can appreciate why information like Goetz' can be hard to swallow. It feels the entire industry is on the same team, trying to make improvements in clinical trial recruiting. Yet the numbers suggest these efforts aren't working.

Look at this visual from our CT.g Analytics tool that compares actual verse anticipated enrollment rates clinical operations teams have registered with their trials on Keep in mind that actual enrollment numbers for trials completed in the second half of 2016 are still being produced.

Actual verse anticipated enrollment rates

First, what we see is that anticipated enrollment numbers almost always exceed actual. Coming in at or above recruitment goals is rare in this industry.

Second, it appears that the gap between anticipated and actual recruiting numbers is widening. Despite new recruiting strategies, surveys like the one Outsourcing-Pharma conducted, and solutions like those Goetz draws focus on, recruiting efforts are still struggling.

An Even Touchier Subject

To review, Goetz' research reveals 4 reasons health care professionals struggle to refer patients into clinical trials:

  • inability to access information
  • insufficient information
  • time 
  • visibility into patient study results

There's a theme in 3 out of 4 of these factors: Trial Transparency.

Perhaps a key to unlocking better recruitment rates isn't all about the recruiting tactics, but the transparency we provide patients and healthcare professionals into these trials.

The qualitative data speaks for itself: make more trial information accessible, and recruitment rates may improve via referrals from nurses.

The Implication

While there's been speculation that physicians aren't referring patients to clinical trials for fear of losing patients, the reality may be that most physicians will refer their patients to a clinical trial if they understand:

  • the trial is the best care option for the patient
  • how to provide quality care for the patient after the trial

Providing physicians with feedback on how their patients have done in a trial would go a long way to improving patient recruitment and communications between healthcare providers and investigators.