Recruitment in the Time of COVID-19




Never before have clinical trials been so heavily popularised and never before have people been so educated on clinical research – this has been reflected in recruitment timelines and this creates a model for how patient recruitment should move forward, to include more in-depth conversations with patients.


The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a set of new challenges for the recruitment of patients for clinical trials but has also been a welcome catalyst for change.
Through the international response and collaboration to try and slow the pandemic, this novel virus has led to greater global awareness of the role and importance of clinical trials in research and healthcare. 

Covid Pandemic Research

The rise of telemedicine

For clinical trial managers, several adaptations and novel solutions have been implemented in order to resume currently paused trials and launch new trials.  Solutions include respective governments responses in fast-tracking any clinical trials directly linked to the COVID-19 virus itself, due to the virus being a global threat and a public health issue; approximately 35% of the studies that were approved between February and September 2020 concerned COVID-19 related trials (1). 

Despite the initial drop in recruitment due to restrictions and worldwide fear, the world has quickly adapted and technology has been used as tool to decentralise parts of the clinical trial recruitment process, such as to undertake the consent process remotely (1). While giving consent digitally is still an uncommon practice, digitalised methods have been used instead.  Studies using both online and printed consent forms saw an increase in patient recruitment, since the consent process was sped up and in-person visits were prioritised.

While many of us enjoy things being ordered in a certain way these behaviours are ordinary until they start interfering with and affecting one’s quality of life, functioning, and relationships. The debilitating symptoms of the disorder make it a disabling condition, especially now, during the pandemic, that behaviours and actions OCD sufferers are encouraged to control and minimise are behaviours and actions preventing the spread of a virus and contributing to personal and societal protection.

“Doctors and research nurses are spending way too long recruiting patients to research studies… Patients are not getting the experience they deserve, and these effects snowball into delays in scientific advancements… and into people getting lifesaving treatments.” – Livia Ng, CEO Neucruit

Livia Ng / CEO Neucruit

Patient centricity and AI to gauge patient attitudes

Trends in patient centricity have been a recent hot topic. Through the design of more patient-centric trials, conversations with patients now have a much larger part to play in clinical trials than before, and these more detailed conversations with patients will likely contribute to lower attrition rates (2).

Techniques that emerged during the course of the pandemic in order to improve these patient-researcher conversations included consulting patient advocacy groups when designing trials, personalising pre-screening questions to gain trust, and to acknowledge that one’s views of clinical trials may change over time (3).

Clinical Trails Pandemic

Through this exploration of patient views towards clinical trials, Neucruit aims to improve the recruitment process.  So far, Neucruit successfully optimised the pre-screening and recruitment for three clinical and academic studies in 2020:

– Repeated Assessment of Mental health in Pandemics (RAMP) study (King’s College London): pre-screened 101 participants for a study examining the impact of the pandemic on mental health. (Target sample size requested by the research team was met).

– Impact of Covid-19 on Mood and Alcohol Study (The University of Liverpool): pre-screened a total of 96 participants to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on their alcohol consumption levels (Target sample size requested by the research team was met).

-The Long Tail Study (University College London): pre-screened 65 participants, to identifying eligible individuals for a study exploring the long-term effects of COVID-19. (Target sample size requested by the research team was met).

Following this, Neucruit received the Innovate UK COVID-19 Government Grant, with an aim to optimise patient recruitment three additional COVID-19 trials. With this funding, Neucruit also aims to better target patients using natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) to modify outreach messages, for faster recruitment, and from more diverse patient samples at a much lower cost than traditional recruitment methods.

Using the tools provided by Neucruit we can improve recruitment practices and clinical trial outcomes for patient groups, clinicians, nurses and researchers. 


Mitchell EJ, Ahmed K, Breeman S, Cotton S, Constable L, Ferry G, et al.

It is unprecedented: trial management during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Trials. 2020;21(1):784.

Baker W.

CLINICAL TRIAL OPTIMIZATION. Applied Clinical Trials. 2020;29(3):9.

About Neucruit

A female-led team transforming clinical trial efficiency, transparency and diversity by improving accessibility to all patient communities. Neucruit is an intelligent software for clinical trial recruitment that redefines patient recruitment. Our technology aggregates real-time data from the over 25 million health-related conversations initiated online everyday to facilitate planning and recruitment in clinical trials. We support biopharmaceutical companies, site teams and investigators enhance site selection, optimise recruitment materials and reach groups that cannot be easily accessed through traditional methods.

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