The Participant-Researcher Relationship

When you recruit patients from your own clinic, they already know you, so credibility and trust have already been established. However, when recruiting from outside sources, like Trialfacts, it’s important to understand the impact of developing these relationships. Out of the hundreds of researchers we’ve worked with over the years, we’ve noticed that the most successful researchers prioritize developing a relationship with their participants, and researchers who don’t put in these efforts struggle with recruitment.

Follow these best practices to build credibility and trust with participants to improve recruitment success.

Show Appreciation:

One of the ways you can make participants feel valued is by showing that you appreciate their time and effort. Here are some examples of how you can show your appreciation.

  • Understand and act like they’re doing you a big favor by thanking them for their time.
  • Highlight potential benefits from your study. Learn their individual motivations for participating and share how their goals may be met during their participation in the study.
  • Help them see the value of your research and educate them on the potential impact on society and other patients with the condition in the future.
  • Whether it’s a scheduled phone call or an in-person visit, being on time shows respect and builds credibility.

Get Personal

No one likes being treated like a small cog in a big machine. Understanding why the participant responded to your study and displaying curiosity in their motivation and success, will help maintain their interest and engagement throughout the study.

  • Tailor every conversation about the study to what your participant wants to get out of it by referencing previous information they have shared to show you’re paying attention.
  • Make your organization appear human by highlighting the people they’ll be working with during the study.
  • Build a strong bond with the participants by having the same person contact them instead of multiple people. Their study team member’s contact details and availability should be easily accessible to them
  • If a participant shows any hesitancy, find out what they’re concerned about, and address this by reminding them about the benefits that are most important to them.
    • Some red flags to look out for when communicating with a participant include:
      • Sighing
      • Long pauses
      • Negative comments
      • A defensive tone or body language
      • Complaining about time
      • Noting that they want to discuss it with a friend or family member.
  • Ask them who their biggest supporters are. Suggesting bringing their spouse or loved ones into the conversation may ease their concerns and strengthen their motivation to participate.
  • Address common concerns head-on. Typical fears include:
    • Being treated like a human guinea pig
    • Receiving a placebo
    • Worry that the study treatment won’t be as effective or as safe as the standard treatment
  • Consider specific needs and concerns common within the group you’re recruiting. For example, minority groups or people afflicted by the condition you’re studying may have universal apprehensions. Be open and honest about these with your participants.
  • Be empathetic to your participants’ needs, or even better identify with them! This can go a long way to building trust between you and your participants.
  • Don’t be selfish with the conversation. If they have questions, go ‘off script’ to answer them as they come up. Ask them about themselves, not just about what is needed for the study.
    • If they mention something off topic, ask more about it. (Perhaps they mentioned their dog, ask what kind of dog they have, etc)
  • Share information about yourself that could be relevant to their motivation in joining the study or just to make them feel more comfortable in sharing information with you. This will make them feel that it is a two-way street.
  • Consider the audience you’re recruiting, and tailor your conversations to their preferences.
    • For example, older populations might appreciate a more conversational approach, while younger groups may prefer more direct communication.
  • Be personable! Make the participant as comfortable as possible. Being friendly and chatty gets them to let their guard down. Sharing information about yourself makes them feel less exposed.

Be Diligent

Persistence can sometimes feel like we’re being annoying; however, it can be disrespectful to give up too soon. Without the participant explicitly telling you they’re not interested, you are being assumptive. Remember that people are busy and they have busy lives. Last-minute obligations and issues crop up all the time. That’s why it’s important to be diligent about enrolling a participant in your study.

  • Follow up with potential participants often. We recommend attempting to contact them at least 10 times, reaching out everyday or every other day.
  • Vary your contact methods between phone calls, text messages, and email.
  • Show them you’re not giving up on them. Express concern when they don’t return your calls.
  • Be upfront about when you’re going to discontinue contacting them and how to get in touch with you should they still be interested in participating.
  • Give them an out. When leaving messages or emails, let them know that you’re committed to spending the time needed to ensure they are comfortable moving forward, but if they’ve changed their mind about participating, please just let you know.
  • Personalize every single communication attempt. Reminding them why they wanted to participate in the first place will motivate them to respond.

Make it Easy

It is very easy for people to put even the simplest tasks in the “too hard” basket. If you ask too much too soon, you run the risk of losing them as potential participants.

  • Remain flexible to remove scheduling roadblocks.
    • Offer early morning, evening, and/or weekend appointments
    • Offer options for remote study visits when possible.
    • Offer options to combine shorter study visits or separate longer study visits when possible to allow the participant to meet the requirements of the study within their availability.
  • Learn the participant’s preferred contact method and use it whenever possible. This will maximize the chances they will respond and maintain interest.
  • Make scheduling and rescheduling appointments easy.
    • Automate reminders and use a system where the participant can add appointments to their calendar directly, ensuring they don’t double book!
    • Trialfacts’ Phone Screen Appointment System is available to our clients and provides these services.
  • Have a main line for participants where someone can answer questions or concerns should their main point of contact be unavailable.

Remember, recruiting from external sources requires extra effort to be successful. Focusing on developing a relationship with your participants in the ways we’ve discussed in this article will build lasting connections that will maximize recruitment for your studies.

Get a free, no obligation recruitment plan:

We’ll undergo our due diligence process and determine how many patients we can provide for your study (guaranteed).

CTA Get Your Free Recruitment Plan

We’ll undergo our due diligence process and determine how many patients we can provide for your study (guaranteed).