Pitch Match: Uniting Patient Recruitment Partners

Editor’s Note: In part two of our pitch match blog series, Lilly’s digital patient recruitment team explains the details of the pitch match event and what they learned on how and whether their vendor partners can collaborate on an effective patient recruitment campaign. If you missed part one, check it out here. 

The Pitch Match

The first day of the pitch match event had arrived—we made it from 94 requests for information (RFIs) to eight great potential vendor partners, with specialties in the six different core capabilities of our recruitment programs: creative development, outreach, microsite development, referral management, call centers and project management.

We had a full house at our design center in Indianapolis, with the eight vendors divided into three teams and an array of Lilly representatives: health literacy, patient recruitment, medical quality, diabetes research, procurement. The air was full of excitement among the participating vendors and Lilly team members for the upcoming activities for the next three days. We were eager to answer the question—can different digital patient recruitment vendors collaborate efficiently and effectively to develop one cohesive recruitment program?

We had sent out detailed instructions to the participants before the pitch match, which helped the days go smoothly as each vendor understood their expectations, but we didn’t reveal all the twists of the project. During the event, we gave the teams unexpected challenges, or “secret envelopes,” which reflected real-life examples of issues that can come up when setting up recruitment campaigns. The challenges included protocol amendments, delays to study drug delivery and issues with referrals not being received by sites. You could feel the suspense as the teams brainstormed innovative solutions while awaiting further curveballs.

Pitch Match_envelopes

Although each team had the same instructions and diabetes study to work from, the team dynamics across the three days varied considerably. Some vendors demonstrated great leadership, while others tended to sit back and take it all in. One team struggled to meet the deadline to finish their pitch, while another team had ample time to refine the final product. The teams seemed to form their own unique identity and style of working each day. It was an extremely effective method of truly understanding how vendors can work together and which company cultures were more suited to this form of collaboration.

Being able to witness this first-hand made the job of selecting the vendors much easier for us. We had set up a complex scoring system using a Pugh Matrix. Lilly attendees completed the score sheet each day, and vendors also rated the other vendors on their team. Although all teams performed to a high standard, we were able to identify the best-in-class vendors for the recruitment sourcing strategy using our scoring matrix and are very excited to be working with them.

What We Learned

If we were to do something like this again we would make a few adjustments. For example, six different capabilities were too many to share among vendors. We found four capabilities among vendor partners to be the right number and decided to keep project management at Lilly due to our internal expertise regarding processes and procedures.

Pitch Match_Flow Graph 2

We learned a lot by holding this event, especially the fact that patient recruitment vendors are more than willing to collaborate. There is no need to keep them apart, and they are ready to transform how they set up recruitment campaigns. One vendor said “Collaboration is more than just give and take—it’s about smashing assumptions and brokering new solutions. This takes guts and the willingness to respect others’ insights, needs and boundaries. There are many ways to solve a problem, but the best way is with all stakeholders giving a share of voice.” 

We received some wonderful feedback after the event and were proud to have successfully demonstrated that this approach does work and how willing vendors are to work together to come up with new ideas.

After the Pitch

We are now working to adopt some of the ideas and strategies presented at the pitch match.

By inviting the various Lilly stakeholders to the event, we were able to give ourselves a head start on the diabetes study recruitment project that served as the basis for the pitch match. For example, the diabetes study team was impressed with how the creative assets from the pitch match showed an understanding of patients, and they ended up using some of the materials in their patient recruitment campaign. By having our financial and quality assessors at the event, we have also been able to move ahead quickly with contracting our selected vendors.

In fact, we managed to launch a digital recruitment campaign for the diabetes project in just one month, including gaining approval from the Institutional Review Board! It normally takes at least three months for this to happen. The campaign was an amazing success, with 100% of the research sites working on the diabetes project wanting to be part of the campaign. We had expected the campaign to generate 167 patient referrals in four weeks, but the actual rate was 312 patient referrals in just three weeks, allowing recruitment for the project to close about a month earlier than anticipated. The next three recruitment campaigns using our sourcing partners will launch in 2018, and we are eagerly anticipating the results.


(Image above is a sample of the kind of materials that emerged from the Pitch Match program.)

Through it all, our goal has been to improve the patient experience by making clinical trial information and educational materials more accessible online. Increasing collaboration among study recruitment vendors is one of many ways to enable this to happen. 

Interested in learning more about clinical trials and how to participate? Check out Lilly TrialGuide