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Patient centricity in improving clinical study recruitment materials


This is the third and final blog of our mini blog-series, where we’re taking a closer look into the different techniques that improve the likelihood of clinical study recruitment. In this blog, we’re looking into the importance of concepts and patient centricity.


Creating the concept

The concept behind an advertisement can make or break its success. Not only does it form the visual theme of the advertisement, it creates the story behind the message you’re trying to convey. Your concept brings together all the key elements, capturing your audience’s interest, influencing their emotional response and inspiring them to take action. And if you don’t send the right message to your target audience, they’re likely to ignore it.

So, what about when it comes to advertising your clinical study? Can patients relate to the concept on your recruitment poster? Is the poster directed to your patient, or is it company-focussed?


We conducted some research in collaboration with Lancaster University, to look into the importance of patient centricity and what makes an effective concept for recruitment posters, for cancer and type 2 diabetes clinical studies.


Emotional marketing

Emotional marketing is a powerful approach and it’s been well known for many years in advertising. It’s a technique that taps into people’s emotions. Whether it’s making them feel happy, sad or angry, it’s about communicating with your audience in a personal way and influencing their response. A study showed that when individuals have a positive emotional association with a specific brand, they are:

  • 15.1 times more likely to recommend the company

  • 8.4 times more likely to trust the company

  • 7.8 times more likely to try new products and services.


Does this technique have the same effect in clinical study advertising? Well, we tested this out using a poster for a cancer clinical study (Figure 1) and found that most patients appreciated the positive message that it portrayed. They understood that the white balloon represented freedom from the disease and that the clinical study could potentially give them this. And importantly, they believed this poster would be effective for increasing recruitment rates.

Figure 1: Cancer study poster


Resonate with your reader

However, whether you’re using emotional marketing or not, the concept must be relatable for it to be effective. If a patient doesn’t clearly understand your key message, it’s unlikely that your ad will be immediately successful. For example, in Figure 2, we tried to entice the audience with an abstract, but subtle, concept that related to the fluctuating sugar levels found in type 2 diabetes.

Figure 2: Type 2 diabetes study poster


Generally, patients struggled with this concept as they were unsure what it was trying to represent:

I think if a concept has to be explained then it’s missed the point – especially in a clinical trial setting”

Almost all patients expressed the importance of having a clinical study poster that was clearly relevant to the patient and obvious what it was about, so they’d be more likely to read it. Instead, they preferred the poster in Figure 3 as it was a ‘better’ and more obvious abstract concept; they related to the fingerprint and pinprick image and knew early on that the poster related to their disease.

Figure 3: Type 2 diabetes study poster


Overall, this highlights the importance of making sure that your ad is relatable, and positive connotations are effective. But how do you truly find out what will resonate with your reader? Patientwise (2010) stated that for clinical studies to succeed, research must be conducted into the patient population to gain an understanding into what will resonate with them most effectively.


Choosing the right imagery

It’s important that the imagery you choose as part of your concept portrays the right message, too. Generally in healthcare, a lot of ‘traditional’ recruitment materials portray stereotypical images that people have seen before, such as in Figure 4. Our research found that the majority disliked these stereotypical images – some were offended, as it reinforced the pre-existing negative stereotype of the disease, and some even said it would put them off enrolling onto the study based on this principle.

Figure 4: Type 2 diabetes (left) and cancer (right) study posters presented to patients


Those who didn’t feel offended by the stereotypical images still believed it wouldn’t be effective for clinical study recruitment. The general agreement was that patients try to stay as positive as they can and want this to be reinforced in relevant advertisements such as clinical study materials.


Who knew that one image could have such an impact on a patient’s decision to take part? This just shows the strong influence that your poster’s concept can have, so it needs to be right to help your study be successful.


Put the patient first

Closely linked with the concept of your poster is your patient-centric approach. Is your poster expressing patient centricity in terms of its imagery, copy and overall style? One factor that may cause low recruitment rates in clinical studies is the negative preconception of the pharmaceutical industry. And one way this can be changed is by being more patient centric.


Our study was the first of its kind to explore whether participants are more likely to enrol in a clinical study based on patient centric writing and design styles. We found that patients expressed the importance of feeling valued and appreciated within a clinical study, as traditionally, people feel as though they’re just a number in the pharmaceutical industry. The majority felt that Figure 1 was an effective clinical study recruitment poster, as it was patient-focussed, rather than company-focussed and full of healthcare jargon. One patient expressed:


‘This is definitely more patient-focussed than company focussed – there’s nothing that sounds like the company has profits in mind. This would be more successful in recruiting patients’

And, when discussing Figure 3, one patient said:


“There isn’t any patient centricity here. It’s important that people feel they are being helped by the industry rather than used.”

This just shows that patients believe that clinical studies will recruit participants if the poster portrays a patient-focussed approach. Does your poster have the patient in mind?


Key message:

When it comes to creating clinical study recruitment materials, your concept and patient-centric approach are influential to patients’ decision-making. From our research, the key takeaways were:

  • Concept – positive and relatable concepts would be most effective in clinical study recruitment

  • Patient centricity – patients believe that clinical studies will recruit participants if the poster portrays a patient-focussed approach.


It’s also important to note that individual differences such as age, gender, job role and other factors may influence a patient’s response to your materials. So, it’s always a good idea to do some research into your target population – or even better, involve them in the decision-making to find out what will resonate with them the most.


Interested to know more about the research we did? You can take a closer look, here.



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