The Pragmatic Trials Collaborative (PTC) is a group of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other primary care providers in Western Canada. They work together to improve patient care and answer important questions about healthcare, medical practices, and patient outcomes.
In Canada, one in five adults is living with diagnosed hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertension puts people at higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.
Normally, people take their prescribed medication for hypertension first thing in the morning. However, a European study found taking blood pressure pills at bedtime instead could reduce heart attacks and strokes by 50%. Because PTC is all about improving patient care, they decided to run a Canada-wide clinical trial to see if the study’s findings were true.
PTC named the trial BedMed, and needed to recruit 8,500 participants for study locations across Canada over the next two years. They started running a recruitment campaign, but weren’t seeing the results they needed. That’s where we came in.
Our job was to create recruitment tools, test them in Alberta, and bring in as many leads as possible with the budget available. Once we proved our success close to home, PTC planned to roll out their own recruitment campaigns in other provinces.
To start, we talked directly to a patient working group made up of people diagnosed with hypertension. We listened closely to find out what would make them want to join the study, and took their feedback to make it as easy as possible for patients to sign up.
While we were focusing on the public, we also needed to account for their doctors. Family physicians have huge influence over patient participation, so we needed their help to make this campaign a succes
We started by creating a visual identity for the study. PTC was already using the name BedMed, and they had materials to match. But these materials needed a visual update that would make potential participants feel more comfortable sharing their health information. The identity had to feel friendly, professional, and forward thinking.
Many patients treat their high blood pressure with some form of pill. We used this as the basis for the visual identity. Visibility was also a concern because many patients with high blood pressure are older, and our eyes deteriorate as we age. The pill shape, combined with easy-to-read text and high-contrast colours, clearly communicated the concept of medical research and created a sense of trust.
The first step in bringing patients on board was to give information to their doctors. We reviewed BedMed’s current materials, and created a new, branded information package. This package was provided to doctors to share with their patients. We designed the package as a set of templates so it could be used in Alberta, but then adapted to different audiences across the country.
Next, we thought about the best way to grab people’s attention and inform them about the study. We decided on a short, animated video to play on TV screens in clinic waiting rooms. This format allowed us to share a lot of information in a short time, and we knew the animation would stand out in the sea of videos playing in waiting rooms. The video was also used in social media ads and a social kit that went out to health care groups and organizations across Alberta.
All of the materials we designed drove potential participants to a landing page. This page included clear, concise information about the BedMed Trial, like who could participate and how to get involved. Knowing our target audience was a bit older, we even made sure the page had a toggle button that could increase the text size.
The page also included a pre-screening form so visitors could apply online when they were ready to participate. We set up this form to filter who is and isn’t eligible, then immediately email each person with their results, along with next steps if they were right for the study. This also told the trial coordinators if a person was eligible so they could contact the individual about joining the study.
We made sure our client didn’t have to spend big money to get big results for this campaign.
The PTC team also earned a CIHR SPOR Innovative Clinical Trials grant that will enable them to expand the study into Manitoba and British Columbia. They now have all the tools they need to complete nationwide recruitment on their own—and make a big difference in hypertension research.