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  • Writer's pictureYVAN LAMOUREUX

Canada Health's Patient Recruitment Response to COVID-19 - A Model for Online and Traditional Print Recruitment

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged healthcare systems globally, necessitating rapid and effective patient recruitment for clinical trials. Canada Health's response to patient recruitment during the pandemic serves as a prime example of how both online and traditional print methods can be effectively utilized. This article explores the tactics used by Canada Health in their recruitment strategy, highlighting why it was an ideal candidate for a hybrid approach.

The Context of Patient Recruitment During COVID-19

The urgency of developing treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 required unprecedented speed and scale in patient recruitment for clinical trials. Canada Health faced the challenge of quickly enrolling a diverse and representative patient population to ensure the efficacy and safety of potential treatments. To achieve this, they employed a combination of online and traditional print recruitment strategies, leveraging the strengths of each medium.

Tactics Used in Canada Health’s Patient Recruitment Strategy

1. Leveraging Online Platforms

Online platforms played a crucial role in Canada Health's patient recruitment strategy, offering broad reach and rapid dissemination of information. Here are the key tactics used:

a. Social Media Campaigns

Canada Health utilized social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to reach potential trial participants. These platforms allowed for targeted advertising based on demographics, interests, and behaviors, ensuring that recruitment messages reached relevant audiences.

Example: A Facebook ad campaign targeted at individuals over 65, who were at higher risk for severe COVID-19, highlighted the importance of their participation in clinical trials. The ads included clear calls to action and links to online enrollment forms.

b. Dedicated Recruitment Websites

Canada Health developed dedicated websites providing comprehensive information about ongoing COVID-19 trials. These websites offered easy-to-navigate interfaces, FAQs, eligibility criteria, and online enrollment options.

Example: The Canadian COVID-19 Trial Network (CCTN) website provided detailed information on various trials, including eligibility requirements and contact details for study coordinators. (Reference: Canadian COVID-19 Trial Network)

c. Email Campaigns

Targeted email campaigns were used to reach individuals who had previously expressed interest in clinical research. These emails provided personalized information about trial opportunities, eligibility criteria, and the steps to enroll.

Example: Emails sent to members of patient advocacy groups and healthcare mailing lists highlighted the significance of participating in COVID-19 research and provided direct links to enrollment forms.

2. Utilizing Traditional Print Media

While online platforms provided rapid reach, traditional print media ensured inclusivity, particularly for populations less engaged with digital technologies. Here are the key tactics used:

a. Newspaper Ads

Canada Health placed advertisements in national and local newspapers, reaching a broad audience across different demographics. These ads included information on the importance of clinical trials, eligibility criteria, and how to enroll.

Example: Ads in major newspapers like The Globe and Mail and local papers in various provinces included a toll-free number and website for more information on enrolling in COVID-19 trials.

b. Community Flyers and Posters

Flyers and posters were distributed in community centers, pharmacies, grocery stores, and other public places. These materials were designed to be visually appealing and easy to read, with clear instructions on how to participate in trials.

Example: Posters in community health centers featured QR codes that individuals could scan with their smartphones to access online enrollment forms and additional trial information.

c. Direct Mail Campaigns

Direct mail campaigns targeted specific neighbourhoods and communities, especially those with higher COVID-19 infection rates or those traditionally underrepresented in clinical research. These mailings included detailed brochures about the trials and how to participate.

Example: Brochures sent to households in high-risk areas provided information on the importance of diversity in clinical trials and detailed steps for enrolling in studies.

3. Collaborations and Partnerships

Canada Health also collaborated with various organizations to amplify their recruitment efforts. These partnerships helped to extend the reach of their campaigns and build trust within communities.

a. Partnerships with Healthcare Providers

Collaborations with hospitals, clinics, and primary care physicians were essential in identifying and referring eligible patients. Healthcare providers played a crucial role in educating patients about the importance of participating in COVID-19 trials.

Example: Family doctors received informational packets to distribute to patients, encouraging them to consider participating in COVID-19 research and providing details on how to enroll.

b. Engagement with Patient Advocacy Groups

Canada Health worked with patient advocacy groups to reach individuals with specific health conditions who might benefit from or be interested in participating in COVID-19 trials. These groups helped to disseminate information and encourage their members to participate.

Example: Collaboration with the Canadian Cancer Society ensured that cancer patients were informed about relevant COVID-19 trials and how their participation could contribute to public health efforts.

4. Educational Campaigns

Educating the public about the importance of clinical trials was a critical component of Canada Health’s recruitment strategy. These educational efforts helped to build trust and encourage participation.

a. Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

PSAs were broadcast on television, radio, and online platforms, explaining the importance of clinical trials in developing safe and effective COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. These announcements featured trusted healthcare professionals and researchers.

Example: A PSA featuring Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, discussed the role of clinical trials in the fight against COVID-19 and encouraged Canadians to participate.

b. Virtual Information Sessions

Virtual town halls and webinars provided a platform for researchers to explain the clinical trial process, address common concerns, and answer questions from the public. These sessions were promoted through social media and email campaigns.

Example: A webinar hosted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) provided an overview of ongoing COVID-19 trials and included a Q&A session with leading researchers. (Reference: CIHR Webinars)

5. Monitoring and Adaptation

Canada Health continuously monitored the effectiveness of their recruitment strategies and made adjustments as needed. This adaptive approach ensured that their efforts remained relevant and effective throughout the pandemic.

a. Data-Driven Adjustments

Using analytics tools, Canada Health tracked the performance of their online and print campaigns, making data-driven adjustments to optimize recruitment efforts. This included analyzing which platforms and messages were most effective in driving enrollment.

Example: Social media analytics revealed that posts featuring personal stories of trial participants received higher engagement, leading to a shift towards more narrative-driven content in subsequent campaigns.

b. Feedback from Participants

Feedback from trial participants and healthcare providers was used to refine recruitment materials and strategies. This iterative process helped to address barriers to participation and improve the overall recruitment experience.

Example: Feedback indicating that some participants found the enrollment process confusing led to the development of more user-friendly online forms and additional support resources.

Why Canada Health's Approach Was Ideal

Canada Health’s patient recruitment response to COVID-19 was exemplary for several reasons:

1. Comprehensive Reach

By utilizing both online and traditional print media, Canada Health ensured that their recruitment efforts reached a diverse and wide-ranging audience. This hybrid approach maximized the chances of enrolling a representative sample of participants.

2. Trust and Credibility

Collaborating with healthcare providers and leveraging trusted sources like newspapers and community flyers helped to build trust and credibility. Patients were more likely to participate in trials recommended by their doctors or seen in reputable publications.

3. Personalized Engagement

Educational campaigns and direct mailings provided personalized and detailed information, addressing potential participants' specific concerns and questions. This personalized approach helped to demystify the clinical trial process and encourage participation.

4. Adaptability

Continuous monitoring and adaptation ensured that recruitment strategies remained effective and responsive to changing circumstances. This flexibility was crucial in maintaining momentum and addressing emerging challenges.


Canada Health’s patient recruitment response to COVID-19 serves as a model for future clinical trial recruitment efforts. By effectively combining online platforms and traditional print media, they were able to reach a broad and diverse audience, build trust, and encourage participation. The tactics used, including social media campaigns, dedicated websites, newspaper ads, community flyers, and educational initiatives, demonstrate the power of a comprehensive and adaptive approach to patient recruitment.

For more detailed information on Canada Health’s patient recruitment strategies, visit the following resources:





This blog is not intended to provide specific advice or opinions regarding the topic(s) discussed above. If you have inquiries about your specific situation, please consult with  Researchmetrix's marketing experts.



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