Accessing alternative treatments for depression is complicated - through our community of 141,000+ users living with depression and the 5.3 million medical questions answered by them, this is a snapshot of how our understanding of clinical trial recruitment has evolved over time...

Accessing alternative treatments for depression is complicated - this is how our understanding of clinical trial recruitment has evolved over time

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Depression is a leading cause of illness and disability worldwide, affecting around 280 million people globally. Despite its high prevalence, recruiting participants into depression trials remains a large hurdle for researchers. 

To help us understand why, we analyzed the data of the 141,000+ users living with depression in our community (and the 5.3 million medical questions answered by them) to learn more about the three key factors that affect patient recruitment: motivation, access and education. Let’s look at each of these factors in more detail.

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Users looking for depression trials on HealthMatch

Uncovering what motivates people living with depression to participate in clinical trials

Finding alternative treatments

As we work towards engaging more participants in depression research, there’s much to learn about the motivations of those who have already expressed interest in clinical trials. Based on our findings, the vast majority of depression patients look towards clinical trials to find alternative treatments for their condition.
This is particularly resonant with patients that have been managing depression for a long time. Our data shows that the majority of patients that are interested in clinical trials have previously sought help from professionals and/or have taken medication to manage their condition.

If patients are motivated to participate, then why is it still difficult to recruit for depression?

Trial sites are too far away

Travelling to trial sites for assessments, often several times a month, is a major burden for trial participants. When surveying our community of depression patients, the inconvenience of travel was cited as the leading barrier to clinical trial access. This is backed up by research from Deloitte, which reveals that 70% of potential participants in the US live more than two hours away from the nearest study center.
In addition to discouraging participation, the geographic distribution of trial sites may also lead to inequities in access. Clinical trial sites in the US are highly clustered around urban areas with healthcare and social service facilities, which may contribute to the underrepresentation of rural communities in clinical research. 

How researchers can reach people with depression who are more likely to qualify

Patients’ perceptions and misconceptions about the studies and interventions can greatly affect recruitment, which is an important aspect for researchers to consider. The focus of our work at HealthMatch has been to improve access and education around clinical trials, particularly for underserved communities.

Educating patients about clinical trials

HealthMatch takes a patient-first approach that focuses on building the largest pool of trials for our patients to match to. We publish content that drives 300,000+ views every month to help patients navigate the world of clinical trials. As a result, we’ve built trust with our patient community and they come to us to explore treatment options for their condition.

Improve access with digital recruitment

Our digital approach to recruitment has enabled us to tap into new and diverse populations who may not otherwise have had access to clinical trials due to factors such as means and location. Our strategy is based on understanding patient motivations and proactively presenting patient-friendly, easy-to-understand clinical trial information to people who are looking for alternative treatments. Patients are then prompted to do a questionnaire to ensure that they only match to trials they qualify for.

We work directly with sponsors and trial sites to help them design, operate and accelerate recruitment for their trials.