RP Sanjiv Goenka Group

Clinical trials organization recruits 14,500 patients in 4 months

The challenge: Accelerating recruitment to help save lives

Clinical trials are an essential step towards saving and improving lives. Volunteer-patients are critical to their success, but recruitment is complex and challenging. Trials require large numbers of people, each of whom must be screened and selected to match specific criteria and ensure compliance. Lots of questions are asked, and the onboarding process takes time. Even people who are initially enthusiastic can lose interest and drop out.

A private-equity-owned clinical trials organization engaged Firstsource to develop a more efficient, engaging and effective way to manage recruitment. And, when they needed to accelerate the process for a COVID-19 vaccine, they relied on their trusted partner to deliver results in record time and with a limited budget.

The solution: A digital first approach that inspires, engages and accelerates results

We provided an end-to-end solution for recruiting and screening patients for clinical trials. We recruited associates for empathy and provided training to help them build relationships with patient-volunteers. The technology solution included email and SMS in addition to voice call support.

In the 18 months prior to the vaccine brief, Firstsource had proactively cleansed and strengthened the client’s patient-volunteer database. It doubled in size, providing a robust foundation for recruitment. A key initiative was to interview high-quality candidates who had dropped out of previous trials. The team identified pain points so the client could adapt their approach (for example, adjust clinic opening times) to support success.

Firstsource developed and tested new approaches to generate interest and accelerate onboarding. Real time analytics provided valuable insight into what was working, so the team could learn, adapt and improve. With empathy as their guiding principle, they identified the optimum communications mix to engage patient-volunteers when, where and how suited them best. Sensitive telephone screening supported by a web portal and a blend of digital communications proved to be a winning formula.

Committed to delivering an outstanding patient-volunteer experience, the 40-FTE strong team at Firstsource underwent rigorous training and put advanced quality mentoring in place. When the vaccine brief went live, the client and Firstsource adopted a ‘one team’ approach, uniting to deliver a fast, effective and sensitive recruitment drive.

“You have been such a delight to speak with. I haven’t done anything like this before [but] you made this so easy for me to be a part of. I am looking forward to doing it.”

The results: Exceeding targets, on time and on budget, with outstanding engagement

The tried-and-trusted approach increased volunteer numbers and supported efficient screening. It kept participants informed and engaged along the way and reduced attrition. To accelerate results, Firstsource took the initiative on the typically nurse-led second stage of screening, reducing the onboarding process by a further three days, speeding up the total time to book appointments by 80 percent.

Omnichannel communications, personalized messaging and empathetic associates worked in concert to deliver impressive results. Same-day SMS messages increased mobile answer rates by 24 percent, while a factsheet mailer to screened volunteers reduced the booking process by more than three days.

By the end of the four-month window, Firstsource had screened 20,000 prospects, delivering over 14,500 volunteers against the target of 11,000. Importantly, patient-volunteer call satisfaction averaged higher than 97 percent.  The cost of acquisition fell by 43 percent.

The client recognized Firstsource as their highest performing partner, rewarded the team with more business and is rolling out the successful methodology globally.

“The Firstsource team has delivered phenomenal results for us – providing exceptional patient experiences alongside record volumes of appointment bookings and huge efficiency-savings.”

Business impact


patients recruited in just four months


reduction in cost per acquisition


reduction in appointment cancellations


calls deliver ‘outstanding’ patient satisfaction


saving on call-to-clinic-appointment timeframe

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