Hello, NCI I-SCORE attendees! This blog post is a companion resource for my March 21, 2014 National Cancer Institute talk, which was titled “Digital Strategies for Patient Recruitment.”
You can download slides from the talk here [PDF].
Please keep in mind that the slides include an addendum that was not reviewed during my presentation but provide more detail on topics that were covered. In addition, I’ve curated a list of over 60 resources and links below to help you on your digital patient recruitment journey. Many of these links relate to online patient recruitment, but you will also find digital tools that are useful for all forms of recruitment.
These resources will be most useful if you actually attended the NCI I-SCORE presentation. But colleagues not in attendance will likely find some value in this information, so feel free to share it with them as well.
Most of the resources listed will cost nothing. Advertising, of course, is not free. But the links I’ve provided to learn about online advertising generally are. In the event that a particular service is paid, I’ve noted that in the description. And I only included paid services that are pretty affordable.
I might be a little bit biased, but the Rebar Interactive blog and newsletter are pretty good free resources as well. 🙂
If you have suggestions on resources that would improve this list, please don’t hesitate to let me know so I can make the addition here. You can provide the resource in the comments at the end of the blog post or email me directly. I’m also happy to discuss your particular questions or challenges on-on-one. Contact me at [email protected].
First Things First
AccrualNet – AccrualNet is one of the best online resources available to help you with patient recruitment. To get the most value out of it, you’ll want to register on the website and participate in the community. The value of the community will grow as more people take part, so encourage your colleagues to register as well.
The resources listed in this section will help you learn about the most popular online search and social advertising platforms.
Adwords Express – This is the version of Adwords created specifically for local businesses who do not have a lot of time to devote to learn Adwords. Setup is quick and easy but you don’t have a lot of control. Adwords Express is a good place to start if you are new to Adwords, are only advertising locally, and you want to be up and running quickly.
Adwords v Adwords Express Comparison Chart – Not sure if you should use the full-featured Adwords or Adwords Express? Google provides a comparison chart so you can see the difference. One notable difference is that you do not need to have a website in order to use Adwords Express.
If you choose to go with Adwords rather than Adwords Express, you will need to spend more time learning about it. Here are some resources for that.
Create an Adwords Account – Instructions for creating your Google Adwords account
Where Your Ads Can Appear – Google describes all the places where you can choose for your ads to appear. For many, the Google Search Network is the best place to start. If you choose the Search Network, your ads will appear on the actual search results page where people are typing their query.
Create Your First Ad Campaign – Walkthrough of the major steps of creating your first campaign
How Keywords Work – Keywords are an important part of advertising on the Google Adwords Search Network. This link explains the basics.
Making Sure Your Ads Are Relevant – Relevance is an important part of advertising with Google. This link explains the why and how of ad relevance.
Tips for Creating Text Ads – A brief description of ways to improve your ad text
Enhance Your Ads Using Extensions – Ad Extensions extend your ad beyond the basic ad. Don’t worry about using these the first time you place an ad. But you should be aware of them because they offer some nice functionality that is useful for patient recruitment. For example, using location extensions you can actually have your address appear alongside your ad.
Adwords Help Center – The Adwords Help Center has lots of resources for learning more. They also have a community where you can ask questions.
Getting Started With Bing Ads – Once you are up and running on Google, you might consider trying Bing Ads. It works similarly to Google. They even allow you to import your campaigns from Google, which is a nice timesaver. Because of a partnership with Yahoo, these ads will show both on Bing and Yahoo. Bing tends to be cheaper than Google and can be used for reaching a slightly different population. Bing users tend to skew a bit older than Google users, which can be good if you have an older patient population.
Facebook ads work quite differently than Google and other search network ads. The interest-based and demographic targeting options are stronger, which may be better suited for particular patient populations. You do not need a Facebook Page to advertise on Facebook, but your results will be better if you do.
Facebook Ads Getting Started – Brief introduction to getting started with Facebook Ads
Twitter is not nearly as popular as Facebook. However, its advertising platform can be useful for particular purposes or patient populations. For example, according to research by Pew Internet, urban dwellers and minority racial/ethnic populations are more likely to use Twitter.
Twitter Ads Website – Twitter provides this page for businesses who are interested in learning more about Twitter Ads. The page is a good introduction.
There are many clinical trial listing services available. Here are three that I’ve found to be most popular with research sites.
Craigslist – You can list your study on Craigslist for free. Some sites have had a lot of success with Craigslist, but of course results vary. Most sites post in the “et cetera” jobs section of their local Craigslist website.
Clinical Connection – Unlike Craigslist, you do have to pay for Clinical Connection. But they have pricing specifically for research sites and they offer a risk free trial. Information on pricing and the trial can be found here.
Centerwatch – Many research sites also post their studies to Centerwatch, which offers investigator pricing for their listings. Centerwatch has a variety of other resources on their website as well.
Social Media Marketing
General social media information and platform-specific resources are listed below.
Social Media and Patient Recruitment
Patient Recruitment: Regulatory & IRB Considerations of Social Media – Summarizes a webinar done by Quorum IRB
Social Media and Patient Recruitment: 6 Factors in Mayo Clinic’s Success – Analysis of the factors contributing to Mayo Clinic’s success with social media
Social Media for Patient Recruitment: 3 Major Options – Describes 3 general options of social media (build, borrow, listen)
A Social Media Feasibility Model for Patient Recruitment – Link to an article I wrote for International Clinical Trials
Social Media category of the Rebar Interactive blog – Access all of the Rebar Interactive blog content written about social media by following this link
Mayo’s Social Media Health Network – Mayo maintains social media and health related resources on this website. Though the website is not specific to clinical trial recruitment, some of the information here can be useful for that purpose.
Great Facebook Pages for Research Sites – This blog post is a companion to a presentation I gave at a Society for Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) social media conference in 2013. It contains slides from the presentation and links to practical resources. When you view the slides, keep in mind that some aspects of the Facebook platform have changed, but the general principles continue to be very relevant. Use the password sitesfbrecruit to access the blog post.
Facebook for Business – This website is maintained by Facebook to help business owners get the most out of the Facebook platform. You’ll find information about advertising, as well as other topics.
Facebook for Business – This Facebook Page is a companion to the Facebook for Business website.
Rebar Interactive Facebook Page – Rebar Interactive is more active on social networks like Twitter and Linkedin. But you can give us a “like” to receive updates on Facebook. You might also check out the pages we have liked. If you view our likes and scroll down a bit, you will see quite a few research site pages. Then you can visit these to see how different research sites are using Facebook.
Twitter for Clinical Research Professionals – This is a 2 part series on using Twitter. Patient recruitment is not the focus. But if you are wondering what Twitter is about and how to get started, these blogs are for you.
Rebar Twitter Lists – I’ve created lists of Twitter accounts curated around a variety of clinical research and healthcare topics. In particular, the research site list may be of interest to see how other sites are using Twitter.
Twitter for Business – This website, which is maintained by Twitter, helps businesses understand how best to use the Twitter platform to achieve their goals.
Social Media Management Tools
There are tons of tools, both free and paid, to help you manage your social media presence. Here are a couple to try. You don’t need these tools if you are just getting started. But many people find them helpful as they get more into social media.
Hootsuite – Hootsuite has a free and a pro version. The pro version is $9.99 a month. For most people, the free version works just fine.
SproutSocial – If you plan to get more serious about social media, consider SproutSocial. It has some more advanced tools/analytics and it starts at $39/month.
Mailchimp – Mailchimp is my preferred email marketing software, though there are many similar services to choose from. They have a very nice user interface and they provide a lot of resources to help you use and learn it. If you have fewer than 2,000 people on your list, their service is free.
Google Analytics – Google Analytics is by far the most popular website analytics software and it is free. It also integrates nicely with Google Adwords.
CallRail – Call Rail is a paid call tracking service. There are several other similar services, but I’ve found CallRail to be the most straightforward in terms of features and pricing. This service is not something you would use all the time. But it’s very useful for determining what awareness tactics are driving your phone calls. It can be used for both online and offline patient recruitment tactics.
Bitly – Bitly is a URL redirection service with built-in analytics. You can use it for creating a shortened or “vanity” URL. Like call tracking, you can use this to track both online and offline patient recruitment tactics. For example, you could post flyers with a special bitly link to determine how many visits to your website the flyers are generating.
Websites & Landing Pages
Google Sites – You can create a website for free using Google Sites.
Squarespace – Squarespace’s basic plan is $8/month, which should be adequate for most people. This price includes hosting. They also have a free trial if you would like to test them out first.
Weebly – A basic website is free. You can also upgrade to their pro version if you want additional features.
OnePager – Allows you to get a simple one page website up using drag-and-drop widgets. Embed maps, forms, and more. Also has basic analytics or allows you to use your Google Analytics account. Starter package is $8/month.
Strinkingly – Another option for creating a one page website without any code. Both free and paid plans are available.
Landing Page Tips – A carefully designed landing page can go a long way in improving your conversion rate. This is particularly important if you are paying to drive traffic (advertising) to you your website. This article will help you create a strong landing page.
You may have heard the phrase “content marketing.” Content marketing is a form of permission marketing, which can organically drive visitors back to your website. Creating good content can be time consuming, but a variety of services are being created to help make the process easier.
I included many more content creation resources in the “Great Facebook Pages for Research Sites” blog post referenced. So if this is an area that interests you, you’ll definitively want to follow that link.
Ultimate List of Online Readability Tests – This article provides a very thorough discussion of readability, and at the end is a list of readability testing tools. You can run your text through these tools to help you figure out if you need to simplify your language so patients can better understand it.
WeVideo – Video is a great educational tool, but the process of editing, uploading, and sharing can be time consuming. WeVideo helps you do all of that quickly from your Internet browser (no software to download). And they have educational pricing. The “lite” version of their software is free, the “plus” version is $19.99/year, and the “ultra” is $29.99/year. View their educational pricing here. Something simple like a brief video tour of your facility can go a long way in easing patient anxiety about trial participation. Plus, Google shows YouTube videos in their search results. Sharing your videos on YouTube is a good way to be visible in those results even if you don’t have a website.
Infogram and Piktochart – Visual communication, particularly on social media, is a great way to cut through clutter on the Web. A variety of services allow the non-designer to create infographics. Infogram and Piktochart are two of the most popular. Inforgram is free to get started and offers a pro plan. Piktochart offers education pricing,which includes a free plan.
General Audience Research
Google Trends – Google Trends is a great way to understand trends related to particular keywords. See top searches and filter by date or state.
PWC Interactive Social Media in Healthcare Graphic – PWC put out a very high quality free report on the use of social media in healthcare. If this topic interests you, check it out. But even if you don’t read the report, the interactive graphic that accompanies it is a great tool. The graphic allows you to select particular demographics and then see their attitudes about social media and healthcare.
Pew Internet – Pew Internet publishes lots of high quality free information. And healthcare is a big focus of theirs. This link will take you to the healthcare category of their webpage, where you can view information on topics like mobile health, caregivers online, and peer-to-peer healthcare.
Google Keyword Planner – To use this tool, Google will ask you sign up for an Adwords account. If you are going to use Adwords, this is a tool you will want to get acquainted with. But it can be useful even if you don’t intend to advertise.
Twitter Advanced Search – See what people are saying about a particular topic. Advanced search allows you to use several filters when you search. For example, you can use the “near this place” filter to only show tweets only in your area.
SocialMention – Social Mention allows you to search all of the major social networks for particular terms. It has search filters and it searches more than just social network content. It also pulls conversations from blogs, forums, and other type of content.
General Health & Disease
Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR) – For cancer research, this is definitely a resource to check out. As the name implies, it is a collection of online cancer resources and communinities.
Medscape Reference – Medscape is a great resource for getting a quality summary of different diseases. Simply type the disease name into the search box. If you do not have an account, you will be prompted to create one, but it’s free. I’ve found the etiology and epidemiology sections of the disease description to be particularly helpful in understanding the audience.
PubMed – A great resource for finding articles about various health topics
Treato – Treato combs the web for patient conversations about various diseases and medications. It then presents that information in a way that is useful. For example, if you search a disease, Treato will tell you which medications are most frequently discussed in relation to that disease.
ClinicalTrials.gov – Clinicaltrials.gov is the most comprehensive registry of US clinical research studies available. It’s not the most user friendly, but they did make some improvements to the interface in a recent redesign. Clinicaltrials.gov can be used in a variety of ways. For example, you can do a search for a condition and then use advanced search to filter results to currently recruiting studies in your area. This kind of search is a good way to discover studies that might be competing with yours for enrollment.
The Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) – This organization provides study participation info geared towards both professionals and patients.
Oncologist Use of Digital Media
The primary focus of the presentation and this blog post related to direct patient communications. However, if you are interested in oncologist use of digital media, check out this infographic.
How Would You Improve This List?
If you think other resources can be added to improve this list, please note them in the comments or email me directly at [email protected].
Leave a Reply