The Digital Process in Action (Patients Interaction)

Every patient’s journey is unique and every patients’ visit to a clinical trial website is different. Here is a hypothetical story of what that journey might be like.

A patient learns from their doctor that they have Psoriasis, and during that initial appointment, the doctor goes over treatment options. When the patient gets home they want to learn more, and google “Psoriasis.” Along with the pages of results, they see a GoogleAd campaign that the Recruitment team is running. They click the ad and it opens a web page on Study Connect.

They see information about Psoriasis and read about clinical trial research. There is a section “What Can I Expect if I Participate?” followed by “Frequently Asked Questions about clinical trials.” There are some medical terms underlined and they can see a definition when they hover over the words. Interested if this study might be right for them, the patient clicks “See if you might qualify.”

They are shown a brief questionnaire written in plain language. When they finish, they see a trial that might be a good fit. They print the results of the screener, so they can share it with their doctor.

The prospect pulls up a list of study sites to see if this trial is happening near them. After selecting a site about an hour away, they fill out a form requesting the coordinator at the site to contact them.

After the form is submitted, they receive an email confirmation with the site details - including a name and phone number of the study coordinator. In the meantime, the patient schedules a follow-up appointment with their doctor to share their screener results and some details of the clinical trial.

Their doctor carefully reviews the patient’s screener results and reviews the scientific details of the trial on While she usually does not recommend experimental medications, she is optimistic that this trial might be a good fit for the patient and suggests moving forward. When the patient gets home, they see a message from the study site and they call the site. After the site asks some eligibility questions, they will determine if the patient should come in for an exam.

Whether the patient takes part in the clinical trial or not, this scenario is a win-win for both the patient and the doctor. The doctor has had a positive experience with a clinical trial that might be an option for other Psoriasis patients and the patient feels as if they have been presented with a comprehensive set of options.

The Evolution of Study Connect

Study Connect was conceived in 2011 as an alternative to building out individual recruitment websites. BMS had built websites for a select number of clinical trials but that meant only a sliver of the portfolio could be digitally supported. Once it was identified that it wasn’t feasible to create new websites for every priority study, Study Connect was developed as a central platform to support digital recruitment activities for all U.S. clinical trials. Additionally, educational content was added to help provide patients with a baseline understanding of clinical trial research.

The platform was later expanded to include the capability for patients to submit online referrals to study sites (referenced as patient referrals). Additionally, the initiative went international, launching in four additional countries and was available in English and local languages. These ex-U.S. versions were localized, enabling digital recruitment activities, and extending educational content to many more patients and caregivers.

Working with vendor partners and building technology integrations, Study Connect was later enhanced, adding key features including screener questionnaires, a patient community and a call center. Educational content was further matured to include materials patients could easily share with their doctors. A new content management system was added to expand the custom platform. Lastly, mobile accessibility was critical and visitors access the mobile version of the site three times more than that of desktops.

Digital Marketing is the Key

Creating a clinical trial recruitment platform is only as effective as the volume of visitors it receives. There is some discovery of Study Connect via natural search, but most of BMS’s critical studies are supported by ad campaigns designed to accelerate recruitment timelines. These campaigns use vehicles such as google AdWords to target patients who have entered certain keywords like “melanoma options,” “clinical trials for skin cancer” and the like. These targeted campaigns are designed to find patients that have the conditions BMS is researching, and who might be interested in a clinical trial. Study Connect serves as the destination that these recruitment activities point to.

Though recruitment activities are similar to marketing campaigns, this is not a natural comfort zone for clinical trials. Where traditional marketing campaigns

Internal BMS Material

Figure 9.1 Internal BMS Material.

must do things such as generate enthusiasm, encourage consumer participation and promise results, recruitment for clinical trials is much more nuanced. Guarantees cannot be made regarding experimental medicines and they cannot be conveyed as treatment.

Traditional Marketing


Clinical Trial Recruitment

Generate enthusiasm

Convey empathy

Encourage consumer participation

Educate and engage

Promise results

Contribute to science and help others

With the nature of clinical trials, these activities also have a significant “soft impact,” which aligns with our longer-term goals of building greater awareness of clinical trials.

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