Without participants, clinical research doesn’t happen. Neither do advances in medicine, which depend on research studies. Despite recruitment energy and resources, enrolling study participants remains a challenge.

If you’re unfamiliar with clinical research, the benefits may not be as evident as it is to those of us who are not on the patient side. In this article, we’ll help explain the benefits of participating in clinical trials as well as some of the factors that affect research study enrollment.

As of April 2020, there have been 113,112 registered studies in the U.S.*

(since February 2000)

Types of registered studies include:

  • Interventional — Researchers compare effects between groups either receiving treatment or no treatment.
  • Observational — There is no intervention or treatment given, but researchers gather assessments on habits and conditions.
  • Expanded access — Participants receive treatment of a serious condition with a product pending FDA approval.


Why do people participate in clinical trials?

1. To advance medical knowledge. 

According to a 2017 survey from ResearchAmerica.org, 82% of participants said that the opportunity to improve the health of others was an important factor when deciding to share personal health information. Medical questions are often answered by the results of clinical trials, leading to better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, manage, and treat health conditions and diseases.

2. The possibility of receiving effective treatments.

In the same study, 84% of participants said that the opportunity to help researchers understand diseases and develop new ways to prevent, treat, and cure them was also an important factor. If you have a condition for which there is no current treatment available, managing your illness can be challenging — but the opportunity to try an experimental treatment can be exciting! Receiving new treatments before they’re widely available after other options have failed is also a factor in research study enrollment.

3. Getting a recommendation from someone they trust.

81% of survey participants also said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to participate in a study if recommended by a doctor. Frequently, word-of-mouth is where people gain their awareness and knowledge of clinical trials, and it’s the encouragement from family, friends, and physicians that can influence the decision to consider research study enrollment.

4. Being compensated for time and travel.

89% of survey participants said that whether or not they would be paid was an important factor in deciding whether to participate in a clinical trial. Some people enroll in clinical trials to earn extra money, while compensation is a bonus for others.

86% of survey participants agreed that clinical trials should be discussed among healthcare professionals and participants as part of standard care.

What are some common barriers that affect clinical study enrollment?

Not everyone shares our excitement about clinical trials. There are a lot of misconceptions and concerns about what participation entails. Here are a few of the reasons people have reservations when it comes to research study enrollment.

Lack of awareness.

In the same 2017 survey from ResearchAmerica.org, 74% of people who participated said a doctor or healthcare professional had never spoken with them about clinical research trials, and 73% said that no one in their family had ever participated in a research study. The more people who know about clinical trials, the more people who are likely to participate.

Questions regarding qualification.

81% of survey participants said that they would be more likely to participate in a clinical research trial if recommended by their physician, yet only 19% of participants said a health care professional had mentioned clinical trials as an option. Unless brought to their direct attention, some people may never consider the possibility of research study enrollment.

Fear of the unknown.

Many people are reluctant to participate because they are afraid. Unknown outcomes and possible side effects are common fears, and researchers may not be able to guarantee results. However, patient safety is always of the utmost priority, participants have rights that protect them, and every trial has enforced oversight.


Some people aren’t able to commit to the time it takes to participate in a research study or find that study participation doesn’t work with their schedule. Others find travel to be the main hindrance if they’re unable to transport themselves or find a nearby study location. Therefore, due to several socio-economic factors, specific populations may be underrepresented.

They intended to participate.

Willing participants will sometimes find that they are unable to join for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they don’t qualify or fail to return their informed consent form. Since participants have the right to discontinue treatment at any time, some participants also drop out before the study wraps up.

With over 20 years of experience serving the Austin, Texas community, DermResearch is a leading dermatology research center specializing in paid clinical studies helping to find treatments for a variety of skin conditions, including healthy skin research studies. If you’re interested in participating in an upcoming study but have questions or hesitations like the ones mentioned here, please contact our office so a member of our team can provide more information and discuss your concerns directly.

With your help, we look forward to erasing some of these barriers to entry and working together to advance medicine!

Sources: ResearchAmerica.org, ClinicalTrials.gov.

Related posts:
Clinical Studies by the Numbers: 5 Fun Facts
Clinical Trials: Do They Really Work?
Research Study Participation: 5 Benefits to You and Others

Participate in a Research Study

Austin area residents: are you or someone you know struggling with skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, or rosacea? Participating in a research study provides an opportunity to be involved in the process of discovering new treatments while receiving compensation for time and travel. Inquire about eligibility by calling DermResearch at 512-349-0500 or view our current studies.