As the saying goes, it takes a village: without patients who believe in the promise that clinical research offers, medical studies can be doomed to fail. While every investigation is the product of hard work by teams of researchers, fellows, laboratory assistants, and coordinators, it is those patients who are willing to take part in a study that are key to its success. But at times finding and recruiting study participants can be an uphill battle.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute’s new Recruitment Enhancement Core (REC) hopes to smooth the recruitment process for busy investigators and their teams. The REC works to make investigators’ lives easier by offering assistance with recruitment plans, creating marketing and promotional materials, and giving them access to a registry of potential recruits.
Led by Chris Gantz, the REC falls under CHOP Research Institute’s Clinical Research Support Office. All told, Gantz has almost a decade of experience at Children’s Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania, and has been working to support clinical research since 2002. Gantz has a background in neuroscience as well as an MBA from Drexel University’s Lebow College of Business, and he has developed relationships with research project stakeholders, overhauled and improved recruitment plans, and managed research teams.
The idea for the REC dates to approximately 2007 when Gantz, who was then working as a research coordinator, had a lunchroom conversation with a colleague about difficulties they were both having with recruiting. After two years at Penn — where he built a recruitment team — Gantz formally proposed establishing a CHOP research core devoted to recruitment, eventually joining the Clinical Research Support Office. Though the REC is a new program, he hopes to grow its staff, and has been working with one of the 2014 Research Administration Fellows, Sarah Tash, PhD.
Much of the REC’s work draws on Gantz’s clinical research experience and marketing background. For example, the REC works with investigators to create recruitment letter content and appearance — including even the envelopes the letters come in — all with the goal of making sure letters are actually opened once they’re sent out. Likewise, Gantz has been working to create a centralized, accessible space in the Hospital where recruitment flyers would be displayed.
“We are trying leverage some best practices that we’ve learned about marketing to participants,” Gantz said.
The REC has also been working to create a version of CHOP Research Institute’s Clinical Research Finder tool for the Hospital’s website, and building a participant registry in part by encouraging investigators to ask their patients if they might be interested in taking part in future clinical research projects. Indeed, according to a study by the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation, 95 percent of “study volunteers say that they would consider participating in another clinical research study in the future.”
To that end, the REC has been working to establish the Research Participant Registry (RPR). A comprehensive database of potential participants that will be populated with existing study participants referred by study teams and members of the public who opt in. “The majority of individuals participating in studies would participate again, the problem is that we haven’t always been asking,” said Gantz, adding, “over time we hope build a robust registry of people interested in participating in research.”
The REC has also been working with the Penn to identify opportunities for collaboration, and recently spoke at a panel made up of Penn and CHOP research personnel to discuss ways to enhance recruitment across both institutions. In addition, the REC has a number of community engagement activities planned, Gantz said, such as having investigators visit schools to raise awareness of CHOP and how integral participants are to clinical research.
Overall, the goal of the REC is to help reduce the burden recruitment can create, thereby saving study teams’ time and resources, Gantz said.
For more information about the Recruitment Enhancement Core, see the CRSO website, or contact Chris Gantz directly at Gantz@email.chop.edu.