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There are no silver bullets, only silver shotgun shells – the truth about Patient Recruitment in Research

There are no silver bullets, only silver shotgun shells - the truth about Participant Recruitment in Research

Patients and volunteers in clinical research come from only two places. Either the clinic staff knows them already, or they don’t. And if they know them as a patient or previous volunteer, well there are a dozen things the staff can and should do to connect with people in a trusted way to generate awareness and interest in a particular opportunity.

For the potential volunteers unknown to the research staff, there are a thousand ways that can be done to reach out and generate interest. You could initiate some wacky ideas like skywriting or put a guy in a gorilla suit on the corner, holding a sign that says, “Research this way →”. Or more sensibly, you could start with a set of tactics like paid search and digital ads. Sometimes even radio and TV still work. And yes there’s a ton of newfangled, whizbang methods as well, from matching EHR records to your protocol, to leveraging existing audiences from a health app or advocacy group. (And yes, yes, yes, the research needs to patient friendly, jive with standard of care, have an optimal onboarding experience and should have patient input. What I am talking about generating initial awareness.)

The point is, there is no silver bullet that does this well. “Participant recruitment is about using silver shotgun shells.” Thanks to my new friend, Paul Grimm, for introducing this phrase to me. For those, like me, who don’t shoot shotguns on the regular, when you pull the trigger on a shotgun, what comes out of the barrel isn’t a single bullet, but instead a scatter shot of very small round, metal projectiles. The idea being, generating awareness in research isn’t going to happen with a singular approach. In fact, it would be naive and frankly unfair to rely on just one tactic to recruit your volunteers into clinical research.

A good outreach and awareness campaign always needs a great set of channels and a coordinating agency to manage all channels. You’ll want a neutral third party to assess the performance of each channel and make recommendations on what to do the next week or month. Furthermore, clinic staff who are handed these potentially eligible volunteers do not want to deal with different platforms to manage each individual, and so a quality agency should provide a platform to do so in a coordinated, unified way. This goes for brick and mortar, hybrid and decentralized clinical trials.

Some of my old favorites in this space are ReBar Interactive, Clinical Trial Media, Praxis, Clariness, Langland, and The Patient Recruitment Agency. They all do a great job in creating messaging that resonates and generating the right type of awareness, interest and call to action for all those participants that the clinic doesn’t already know. And no, they have never suggested gorilla suits or skywriting.

Final tip: If a company doesn’t offer the ability to work with and manage the performance of any channel, then they are just a channel themselves.

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Naked and Afraid – a true test for SaaS?

Naked and Afraid™ – a true test for SaaS?

Today we see many examples of companies marketing a Software as a Service (SaaS) product. My, have we quickly gotten loose with how we use that word. Bourbon too has really unbuckled the belt on its definition–at least by some–but that’s another blog.

One can recognize Salesforce as the first SaaS company, though some may also argue it has drifted from that core orientation. At any rate, the company defines SaaS on its website as: “a way of delivering applications over the Internet—as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the Internet, freeing yourself from complex software and hardware management.”  The key phrase here is the “freeing yourself” part of the definition. Hold that thought.

The show Naked and Afraid™ is a reality TV program on the Discovery channel where a 2 person co-ed team, with varying levels of survival training, get dropped off in a hostile natural environment, challenged to survive for 14 days without any assistance. They arrive at their destination separately and fully clothed, but are instructed to disrobe before walking toward each other, to say hello in the nude. All seem quite confident and optimistic on day one.  But most, if not all, end up pretty afraid at some point. The twist here is that they are allowed to bring with them only TWO objects: a burlap satchel and one personal item. This other item is often a machete, flint fire starter, rope, or some other key object that will make their survival more probable.

Many so-called SaaS products being offered today still require complex software management, development or configuration before you can use them.  And while as a customer you may “free yourself” from the labor of this task, if you need to pay or wait for it, then in our book, you haven’t “freed yourself” and it ain’t SaaS – it’s tech enabled service. Tech enabled services certainly have value as they require professionals to configure or customize or prepare the technology for your use. And boy do you pay for that value, which is usually delivered by people. And whenever there are people involved, there are higher costs, wait times, lack of control, and reiterations.  And when a change is required, a cost is incurred. In short, it limits your ability to do more of what you want.

True SaaS, like the show Naked and Afraid™, is something we like to classify by the ability to achieve your goals with only TWO things: a username and password. Your success is up to you, without waiting on others or paying for their time.  At ProofPilot, this is our core premise – our belief that your organization can radically scale its ability to design and execute rigorous research with just two things: a username and password. We don’t downplay the need for intelligence and smart decision making. It’s just that we believe that you are best suited to make those research decisions for your products and ideas, and we are here to give you the best tools to do exactly that.