You didn’t do a feasibility test
First up, one of the best ways to prevent recruitment problems is by doing a feasibility test. We’d recommend carrying out a thorough feasibility assessment before your research begins so you can identify how achievable your sample really is – and if you are unsure on how to go about it, you could also ask your recruitment agency to support you. Kick things off with some desk research: NICE is a really helpful resource for understanding what advice and information is available across a whole range of therapy areas, whilst the NHS Digital Catalogue can give up-to-date data on incidence rates and NHS staff numbers. You could also identify and research the centres where your chosen therapy area or condition is treated so you can get a better idea of whether or not your sample size is achievable. This is especially important if you are planning to conduct methodologies such as individual face-to-face interviews. Find out more about feasibility testing here.
Your screening criteria is too strict
High-quality, engaged participants have the power to make a good project great – but on the other hand, poor quality participants can do a lot of damage to your research. It’s no wonder that you want to find the most relevant participants who meet your exact criteria – but whilst it’s important to screen your participants, you also need to be realistic. Are the things you’re looking for absolute must-haves or nice-to-haves? For example, whilst you might absolutely need participants who have been taking a certain medication for a particular amount of time, is that time-frame less than six months? It is a notoriously difficult task to find patients initiated on medication in such a specific time-frame so be mindful of this and perhaps be more flexible.
Likewise, when it comes to HCPs, you might want to only interview one specialist per treatment centre. However, based on the findings of your feasibility assessment, would it help to relax this slightly? Being realistic about your screening criteria is especially important when researching rare therapy areas or dealing with a target audience that isn’t regularly researched – and by being a bit flexible, you can essentially have a Plan B in place should recruitment prove more difficult than expected. Find out more about sourcing the best participants here.
You’re looking in the wrong places
If you’ve already conducted a feasibility assessment and checked your screening criteria and you’re still finding it difficult to source people for your research, it could be that you’re looking in the wrong places. Are you using a customer list or will your participants be free found? If there is a list, make sure you’re clear about how many names you’ll receive every week and whether it’s achievable. You’ll also need to check the quality of the data too – full names, addresses and phone numbers are very different to just an initial and a hospital name and can have a huge effect on how easily you find participants. If you are free-finding participants and you’ve already tried more general methods such as online research and social media, it could be time to get more specific.
When it comes to targeting patients, make sure you cast your net as wide as possible. Try support groups and online support forums: as a place where patients, caregivers and family members come together to comfort and educate, support groups and online forums are a really helpful resource for reaching out to patients. HCP finders are another way to help find high-quality patients, and because HCPs will have detailed knowledge of the patient’s medical history, you can also be confident that they will put forward the very best participants that meet your criteria. Find out more about how to recruit hard-to-reach respondents here.
You didn’t brief your agency
If you are using an agency or recruiter to find your respondents, the secret to successful medical fieldwork recruitment is communication. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to fully brief your agency so you can make sure everyone understands the research objectives and works to deliver the best possible results – without making costly mistakes along the way. One thing to think about is clearly communicating the research goals and objectives so your agency can give you honest advice about how achievable your goals are.
In addition, a clear brief will also make sure they know exactly what you are looking for so they can find the best respondents, put forward ideas on how to speed up recruitment and give expert advice on where else you can look. You should also brief your agency on important dates and milestones such as when recruitment needs to be completed by so you can work backwards from these dates and make sure you’re fully prepared. Plan regular update calls too, so you can keep on top of how the recruitment process is going, if they are hitting quotas or if they are facing any difficulties. Discover more about the importance of briefings here.
Your incentive isn’t quite right
It’s standard to offer your participants an incentive for giving up their time to take part in your research – and if you are still finding recruitment harder than you expected, it might be worth looking at your incentive and seeing if it is right for the research. When it comes to medical market research, you are often dealing with time-pushed HCPs and patients who will need to share personal and sensitive information – and this needs to be taken into account along with’fair market value’ when offering an incentive. For example, a consultant cardiologist will require a higher level of an incentive than a practice nurse. You also need to make sure your incentive matches the difficulty level of the recruitment: if you are conducting a study on rare cancer in London, you’ll need to offer a higher incentive than if you were conducting a study on asthma across the UK. Find out more about incentives here – and make sure you always adhere to the BHBIA guidelines as well.
These are the most common things we see that can make medical fieldwork recruitment more difficult. So, to get further guidance, download our recruitment roadmap. It is our most in-depth guide to healthcare market research recruitment yet.; from feasibility assessments to recruitment techniques, we cover it all. Download today.