Giving Back to Research Participants: Is It Worth it? - Vibrent
Blog | November 24, 2021

Giving Back to Research Participants: Is It Worth it?

By Josh Schilling, Sr. Director, Health Solutions

What is the most important asset in a health care study? If you answered anything other than “participant data,” think again. A study is only as good as the “upstream” health data provided by participants.

Why? Because this is the data essential to helping with the “downstream” research as the study progresses.

In today’s pandemic world, much of the work in accurately capturing this upstream data can be streamlined by doing this virtually and digitally. Despite the fact that today’s health research companies have had to shift to almost exclusively virtual clinical trial participant recruitment and invest significant resources in running campaigns and engaging with participants, there are accessible solutions to the current challenges in gathering that valuable upstream data.

Challenges that researchers need to overcome when converting study prospects

Once you have done the hard work of creating awareness and prompting prospects to learn more about your study, it’s time to convert them into participants. Let’s take a look at how organizations approach that work and how to evaluate whether they’re successfully meeting the challenges this presents.

Running manual awareness campaigns is time-intensive and risks losing touch with potential prospects.

Many organizations typically run different awareness campaigns and struggle to keep up with the ongoing work of tracking, monitoring and engaging prospects. Campaigns can involve both pre-COVID offline and online tactics (e.g., having in-person staff attend targeted events, or engaging digitally on social media platforms and sites frequented by a target audience).

Each of these outreach tactics involves collecting data from prospects across both offline and online activities. Even these days, when the work is almost exclusively digital, there are numerous sources of data, each from a particular social media platform, website or email campaign. All of this health data must be merged, consolidated and cleaned up into one format in order for it to yield insights and become actionable by a researcher.

Typically, however, it is the organization’s back office staff that manually cleans up and consolidates the data into a single place in order to communicate with the prospects. Because merging all of this data is so time-consuming, by the time research staff reach out to prospects, they sometimes have forgotten they signed up to participate, and the participant engagement opportunity loses steam.

Researchers too often lock into generic digital engagement tools that are not purpose-built for health research

The digital tools that organizations do use to engage with these prospects are often not specifically designed for the demands of a digital health care study. The market is flooded with large, ubiquitous players who have a generic interface for all industries and segments. These tools leave large gaps in how health researchers need to engage individuals holistically in order to make a study successful.

Organizations have to create a patchwork of disparate technology solutions to manage participant recruitment initiatives

Organizations conducting digital healthcare research invest significant time and money in creating awareness and acquiring prospects. Most cobble together solutions from disparate systems to meet their needs. Not utilizing purpose-built digital health technology tools leaves too many holes in the engagement “funnel.” Unfortunately, a good portion of people are consequently lost at each stage: moving from prospects to participants, ensuring participants complete all requirements (surveys and samples, as needed), and making sure participants stay engaged during the life-cycle of the study.

Three questions health researchers should ask about their current study recruitment processes

Health research organizations should look at how they’re spending their resources on participant recruitment and conversion. These three questions can help them assess if their current processes and workflows are delivering the results they need to effectively recruit the right study participants.

1. Is health data collection and consolidation taking too much time and effort?

Organizations that are manually conducting data collection and consolidation should examine whether these processes allow them to efficiently collect, combine and analyze data from multiple sources in a timely fashion that is allowing them to stay in touch with prospects.

2. Do prospects’ data deliver insights that inform and improve engagement strategies?

Organizations should examine whether their current processes are allowing them to glean real insights from that data—are they able to identify the patterns and behaviors of prospects so that these individuals can receive tailored communications designed to convert them to become participants?

3. Are study prospects receiving timely, tailored communications?

Lastly, health research staff should reflect on whether their processes and workflows for prospect recruitment and engagement are allowing them to generate timely, tailored communications to each prospect based on their behavior, demographics and engagement patterns.

Prospect conversion depends on timely, tailored communication

At the end of the day, health research organizations conducting studies need to ensure that potential study participants remain engaged and are continually being moved through the “funnel” towards conversion to participants. Organizations that are missing the mark on effective recruitment strategies should consider moving to a consolidated platform that is purpose-built for health research engagement.

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