How the emotional journey can impact oncology patient recruitment

If you’ve ever recruited for oncology studies, you’ll know that recruiting oncology patients has its own unique challenges. Every cancer patient will be familiar with the feeling of sitting in a doctor’s chair, hearing the “c-word”, and their lives are immediately sent onto a path of chemotherapy, regular hospital check-ups and life disruption. For these patients, their diagnosis is the start of two journeys — their treatment journey, and an emotional journey.

It’s the second journey, the emotional rollercoaster that comes with a cancer diagnosis, that can make it challenging to recruit oncology patients.


The impacts of the emotional journey

Emotions run differently across different oncology patients. The ability to cope with the mental and physical aspects of cancer care is totally unique between people, so this must be considered when presenting clinical trials to patients.

It’s highly likely that oncology patients will be confronted with numerous emotions throughout their treatment journey, ranging from fear and despair, to distress, confusion and denial. It’s so important to know exactly how patients may be feeling, and at what point, so that you can best equip yourself for interacting with them in a way that’s both supportive and appropriate.


How to understand the emotional journey

This leads us swiftly onto the next section, how can we understand exactly where patients are at with their emotional journeys, and what are the best ways to connect with patients at each stage of this journey?

There are numerous ways we can get this insight, whether it be through:

All methods have the same thing in common — you need to speak with the patients. Through speaking with patients and patient groups, you can understand which parts of the treatment journey are particularly challenging for patients. Through social listening, you can understand what challenges they’re facing, what they are most concerned about, and their experiences with treatment regimens. No matter what you are wanting to find out, talking to and hearing from patients is the best way to source your information.


Okay, now I have heaps of information — where do I use it?

Sure, you can use patient research to modify your protocol to fit the patient better and reduce burden for them — this is a great use of the information, and we’d recommend you do this, but it’s not the only way to use these insights. Here are a few other ways insights can guide your patient recruitment strategy:

Physician referral materials: Oncology patients are likely to be enrolled or recommended to a clinical trial by a physician. This means that you’re relying on physicians to give out information on your clinical trial, so give them a hand in doing so. By providing physicians with key information regarding your trial, you can highlight the strengths of your trial that relate to the stage of the patients’ emotional journey.

Investigator recruitment materials: Similarly, you can use patient research to guide the information you provide to investigators. Oncology patients won’t just visit an investigator and sign up on the spot, investigators must be able to produce relevant and supportive information so that patients know exactly what they’re signing up for. The information in these materials can be informed by the insights you gained, for example, you can use the concerns you found through social listening. 

Interactive informed consent: Using patient research, you can identify what oncology patients may get confused by, or want to be able to know more about. So, try putting this information into an interactive informed consent. Show off the parts that are of greatest importance to the patient, explain the parts that are more difficult to understand, both of which will empower the patient to understand exactly what the clinical trial can do for them, increasing the chances of them enrolling.

Targeting awareness campaigns: The final thing patient research can be used for is to tailor advertising and awareness campaigns. Patient advocacy groups and advisory boards will give you an informed insight into where to find the right patients, as well as how best to reach them.

So, all in all, patient research are an incredibly useful tool for connecting with oncology patients. Being able to provide the right level of supportive and informative messaging for their stage of emotional journey will enable you to create the best patient recruitment strategy possible.



If you’d like to learn more about how to utilise patient research to inform your digital patient recruitment, get in touch with us at Or, if you’d prefer to read up on some more insights, we have plenty of blogs lying around on our website — feel free to check them out!

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Rosemary Lakeru

Rosemary is a Patient Feasibility, Recruitment and Retention Specialist with over 8 years of experience in recruiting patients for clinical trials. Using a patient-centered approach Rosemary provides strategic solutions to boost recruitment for my clients. Rosemary believes that connecting, communicating, and empowering patients before, during, and after their participation in a trial can help drive successful Retention and Enrolment goals.

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