What are the biggest barriers in patient recruitment?

With the advances that have been made in clinical research, it’s almost hard to believe that the same challenges still exist within patient recruitment. Unfortunately, traditional clinical research models pose challenges at many levels and ultimately hinder the efficient running of clinical trials.


At the patient level, there are lots of potential barriers to participation, including:

  • Lack of awareness – people simply aren’t made aware that a clinical trial could be an option for them

  • Poor communication – complex materials are shared with patients and caregivers that can be difficult to understand, therefore don’t help them make an informed decision

  • Fears about side effects or procedures – although this may be justified, often, the risks and benefits are not clearly explained, or the protocol has too many invasive procedures

  • Logistical issues – having to travel to an investigator site for frequent appointments can be a huge burden and is particularly challenging for those with work or care responsibilities, or mobility constraints

  • Mistrust in research, pharma or healthcare – evidence shows that many people do not trust those running clinical trials and don’t believe they have the patients’ best interests at heart


At the sponsor and site level, costs and time are often two of the biggest challenges when it comes to recruiting patients. There are aspects to traditional clinical trials that sponsors should look to alter:

  • Lack of patient involvement – not engaging with patients at all or early enough can cause major issues with recruitment

  • Complex protocols and demanding schedules – patients and caregivers can be massively put off by a study design that’s too burdensome

  • Overly restrictive inclusion and exclusion criteria – the study population needs to reflect the intended treatment population, but eligibility criteria should still allow for diversity

  • Poor or no patient recruitment strategy – all studies need to have a thoroughly considered patient recruitment strategy to avoid delays and extra costs

  • Lack of cultural training – social and cultural barriers can be detrimental to studies, especially if trying to recruit a specific group of people, and sponsors and site staff can have a great influence in overcoming such barriers


You might be thinking you’ve heard this all before? Yes, we have too. That’s why we’re still astounded that change is not happening faster to prevent or overcome these issues. It’s really important to fully understand these challenges to overcome them and improve patient recruitment. Although something like rebuilding trust with the public will take time, strong campaigns and community engagement – these actions need to be taken now if we are really looking to make improvements as an industry. Alongside this, there are many short-term solutions that can help avoid the problems outlined above. There is no better place to start than with patients and caregivers themselves. By gathering insights from patients and caregivers, these can be used to inform not only patient recruitment strategies, but study design too.


To learn more about how patient recruitment challenges can be overcome with an insight-driven approach, get in touch with us at hello@couchhealth.co

Patient Recruitment

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