Leapcure, a tech-focused clinical trial organization, has found that recruiting with health influencers more than doubles the reach to patients.

The company released results from a 2019 pilot program that measured how effective health influencers are to recruitment. Using health influencers also costs significantly less than traditional advertising methods, Leapcure found.

With health influencer campaigns, patients were reached by study coordinators more than 85% of the time, more than double the reach of digital ad campaigns, Leapcure said. These campaigns also use about 10% of the media fee requirements compared to digital ads.

“We can bring in patients somewhere in the range of $30 to $40 each, that’s critical to running smart research from a budget perspective,” said Zachary Gobst, founder and CEO of Leapcure. “It’s not just that you’re finding patients at lower acquisition cost by working through health influencers, you’re also working with people who are much more committed to the cause, versus traditional advertising outreach.”

The company is continuing to build its influencer network for these campaigns. Gobst said the trickiest part can be convincing pharma clients to work with health influencers. Many pharma companies are especially concerned about influencers harming the brand.

In an industry that is often risk-averse, educating pharma clients about the benefits of trying new digital outreach methods can be a process. Gobst said having case studies to prove its effectiveness and tying influencers to the client’s values are both important tools to educating them.

“A surprisingly large part of what we have to do is education,” Gobst said. “A big part of our job is to educate pharma on how to come up to speed, to embrace digital outreach and to embrace the feedback patients are giving you as you’re recruiting them.”

But the benefits are clear. Patients are following health influencers for the community and, for some disease states, can be frustrated with the status quo of treatment. That’s where influencer trial recruitment works best.

For a women’s health trial, Gobst said, Leapcure built a network of 20 parenting bloggers and influencers in the parenting space to recruit patients.

“Patients coming from influencers are people who are desperately looking for improvement to the standard of care and grasping on whatever they can find. They find people digitally because it’s not local to them,” Gobst said. “These people are looking everywhere they can to find someone to give them better care or promise access to new opportunities, that’s what this program is all about.”