Clinical Research Trials: Ways to Reach and Recruit Patients Digitally

Clinical Research Trials: Ways to Reach and Recruit Patients Digitally

According to research by, 15% of clinical trials never enroll a single consumer1. More than two-thirds of clinical trials fail to meet their original enrollment goals. Drug development processes are adversely affected by this; however, this is where digital media can have the greatest impact is in drug development.

Digital media is a powerful tool for reaching the right audience, especially when recruiting for a clinical trial. When connecting with the right people, you ensure that a large pool of qualified participants will contribute to the clinical trial’s success. With effective digital media strategies, clinical trials can drive a greater volume of qualified registrants.

To create successful clinical trials and encourage participation, brand marketers must create a positive digital consumer experience. Let’s take a look at how to reach and recruit patients digitally.

Step 1: Define your target audience

The first step in creating a consumer or any digital media advertising campaign for clinical trials is establishing a clearly defined target. By clearly defining target segments, you can reach a more cultivated consumer population and deliver meaningful ads, resulting in a higher return on ad spend.

The targeted behavioral model of conditions for your clinical trial should be based on claims data – de-identified and anonymized to protect consumer identities. You must also align with HIPAA and NAI regulations.

Step 2: Model your audience data

Now that you have a defined target audience, the next step is to model the audience based on data around your relevant consumer population.

This data serves as a parameter for your trial and should include demographic information, medical history, and online behavior. Keep in mind that this data should never have personally identifiable information. The data should not be used if personal identifiers exist in any data set.

This non-identifiable data can create modeled segments of your consumer population to deliver customized messages to the specified audiences.

To build a relevant consumer audience, leverage outside support and resources such as Adfire Health’s database and HIPAA-compliant, modeled claims data. With key demographic and behavioral data and ranking the audiences, solution providers such as Adfire Health can deliver information about your clinical trial to the consumers most likely to be in your preferred audience.

Step 3: Use data-driven media

Once target segments are ready, it’s time for data-driven media. Data-driven media allows you to target the right audience with relevant messages.

For example, you can target consumers with a propensity for a medical condition, such as Huntington’s Disease or chronic GVHD. Your ad may read, “Have Huntington’s Disease? It can be managed. Learn more” and drive to an interactive guide. With audiences in mind, create relatable and clear messaging for optimal conversion rates.

Step 4: Use contextual and keyword-driven media

This is a no-brainer. Using health-related keywords and phrases driven media strategy can effectively reach consumers actively searching for information about the medical condition or treatment your clinical trial is researching. Contextual media uses multimedia content (images, videos, and interactive graphics) to enhance a campaign’s message since this media strategy focuses on content and keywords on endemic sites such as Epocrates and medical journals and non-endemic sites such as Yahoo and Buzzfeed. For example, a mobile video ad demonstrates what the trial treatment is trying to achieve in a Yahoo news article about that particular disease.

Keep in mind the personality of the brand voice. If you are talking to caregivers or consumers, use a supportive and understanding tone. If the ad messaging addresses HCPs, be direct so they can digest the message and take action. Using health language increases the chances that the consumers researching information relevant to your clinical trial engage.

Step 5: Use social media platforms

With social media advertising, you can reach a large audience of consumers, even with limited resources. While traditional forms of media may require a minimum spend or a large upfront investment cost, social media advertising is one of the few forms of media that can expose you to a relevant audience of hundreds or thousands for just a few dollars. Social media strategies should be linked with other channels, such as contextual media, to gauge how audiences respond to campaign messaging. Getting the consumer to engage is half the battle. Once they click on your ad, where do they land? The clinical trial landing page is where they learn more about the trial and perform the next step, signing up for the clinical trial. Your landing page must be informative and compelling enough to drive performance.


  1. Standberry, S. (2023, February 22). Traditional media vs. social media advertising. LYFE Marketing. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from

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