5 Best Practices for Following Up with Clinical Study Participants

Following up with participants in your clinical trial is a time-consuming part of your study. How and when you choose to contact candidates who have expressed interest in trial participation will have a significant impact on your patient recruiting efforts. Maintaining healthy contact habits will also strengthen your ability to communicate with enrolled patients throughout the course of your study.

If you’d like to understand the best practices in following up with your potential patients, you can get a recruitment plan from us at no cost. Often these practices improve the contact rate and also reduce the amount of time needed to contact referrals.

But in short, being flexible and utilizing multiple contact strategies is sure to bring communication success in your study. Here, we dissect 5 of the best strategies for patient follow-up.


1. Call, don’t email.


It’s tempting to just send out a template email to each recruited patient; but impersonal, automated emails can result in lower enrolment numbers. Consider the reality of email: many people already receive a significant amount of email they might consider “junk mail,” and your email may not make the cut in their inbox screening process.

Whether it’s accidentally missed, moved into a “junk” or similar folder, or simply deleted, there are a number of reasons why email may not be the safest contact route. Even if your recipient sees the message, they may not recognize it as relating to your study and ignore it.

Emailing is especially dangerous in situations where you require a response. As email piles up, it becomes less likely that your recruited patient will respond to your message.

By placing phone calls, you not only establish trust and a positive relationship with your patient, but you provide additional credibility for your study. It’s far easier to receive a commitment from a participant via a phone conversation as opposed to an email conversation.


2. Call within 24 hours of the person expressing interest in the trial.


People are busy and have a lot competing for their attention. By waiting to contact a candidate curious about your trial, you run the risk of them losing interest and choosing to forego enrolment. Reaching out to candidates within 24 hours of their contacting you will result in higher patient recruitment results for your clinical study.


3. Call at the requested time using their preferred number.


This may seem like an obvious point, but it is often missed or inadvertently ignored by a number of research sites. When patients provide a preferred time and phone number to contact them, use it. It may be tempting to call participants at times that are more convenient for your office, but you run the risk of the patient being unable to answer.

Make this task easy for your office by asking each person when and how they’d like to be contacted when they respond to your advertisement or enquire about your study. Calling them at this time will make it far easier to get in touch with them.


4. Vary the times you call.


Similar to the point above, if you always call at the same time each day, there may be people who can’t answer a call at that time of day. So vary the times you try to call people. Try early mornings, lunch time, late afternoons/early evenings and weekends. This is especially helpful in situations where the patient has not provided you with a preferred contact time or method.


5. Call multiple times.


Not everyone is available to take a call the first one or two times you call them. A lot of people never check voicemail, and even those that do might run out of time to get back to you. Be persistent in calling and eventually, you’ll reach your patient.

Be sure to not try the same time twice. If you call in the morning on Monday, try mid- to late-afternoon on Wednesday. Finding the right time to call may take some trial and error, but is essential to achieving positive results.


Following up with patients can be tedious, but is an important part of completing your trial on time and with accurate data. By utilizing these best practices, you’re sure to alleviate some stress and confusion.

Not having much success in enrolment? Need help getting hold of patients? Consider how Trialfacts can help. We have a database of over 25,000 patients that have been through our rigorous pre-screening process. Let us take care of patient recruitment for you.

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