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Finding clinical trial participants during COVID-19


The clinical trial process is crucial for developing new medications, therapies, and medical devices. Since 2010, over 50,400 new clinical studies have begun in the United States according to the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative. Cancer treatments are the most studied therapy area. Cardiovascular & circulatory diseases and infectious diseases follow after.

With COVID-19 vaccine trials underway, provider and patient recruitment is an urgent need. Your business can reach specific providers and patient cohorts in the following ways:
  • Understanding historical clinical trial trends
  • Pinpointing participating organizations
  • Finding providers participating in the most clinical trials 

What are the current clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines in development?

Currently, there are over 40 SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in development across the globe. In the U.S., Operation Warp Speed aims to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines through partnerships between government agencies and pharmaceutical companies. Through August 2020, the initiative will help fund six vaccine candidates in development from the following manufacturers:

  • AstraZeneca
  • GSK/Sanofi
  • Johnson and Johnson
  • Moderna
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer

AstraZeneca and Moderna’s vaccine candidates just began Phase 3 of their trials. Each study is seeking approximately 30,000 participants, particularly those at increased risk for COVID-19. Pfizer launched the Phase 2/3 portion of their study in July and stand at 66% of its targeted enrollment. Novavax wrapped Phase 1 with Phase 3 slated to begin before the end of the year. Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine in development, as well as the candidate from the partnership of GSK and Sanofi, are in pre-trial phase and are set to launch in September 2020.

The goal surrounding this research is to administer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to 300 million Americans beginning in early 2021. The promising results of initial studies on these candidates are helping get the country closer to controlling the spread of the virus.

Using data to find potential COVID-19 vaccine trial participants

Definitive Healthcare’s Hospital & IDN and Physician databases offer a provider’s history in clinical trial participation. This type of data is used to recruit physician KOLs for future trials, understand the specialty therapy areas for the organization and gain insight into the upcoming needs in the market.

Recent clinical trials in the United States

At least 4,700 new clinical trials have begun each year from 2010 to 2018. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, 12,250 new studies started. Lower numbers appear for 2019 and 2020 since full year data is not yet available. The trend of higher clinical trial volume year-over-year implies that researchers are studying an increasing number of diseases. The study of these new or different conditions can help researchers access untapped patient cohorts.

Number of U.S. clinical trials started by year 2010-2020

Fig. 1: Data from Definitive Healthcare’s Hospitals & IDNs database and Physicians database. Clinical trials data is sourced from the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative. Data is updated monthly. Accessed August 2020.

What types of organizations participate in current clinical trials?

Nearly 6,000 provider organizations tracked by Definitive Healthcare are part of at least one of the 16,250 currently active, recruiting or enrolling studies. The top firm types participating in current clinical trials include over 2,400 physician groups and 2,250 hospitals. In addition, hundreds of ambulatory surgery centers, health systems and imaging centers are part of at least one current clinical study. 

Number of provider organizations participating in current clinical trials

Fig. 2: Data from Definitive Healthcare’s Hospitals & IDNs database and Physicians database. Clinical trials data is sourced from the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative. Data is updated monthly. Accessed August 2020.

The 2,400 Physician Groups participating in current clinical studies cover 68 medical specialties. Ophthalmology and Hematology/Oncology practices are part of the most current studies, followed by Family Practices, Cardiology and Gastroenterology.

The top five primary specialties of physician groups participating in current clinical studies:

  1. Ophthalmology: 252
  2. Hematology/Oncology: 202
  3. Family Practice: 173
  4. Cardiology: 159
  5. Gastroenterology: 155

The 2,250 Hospitals associated with current clinical studies staff a total of 537,400 beds. This represents nearly 60 percent of all hospital beds tracked by Definitive Healthcare. The average bed size for hospitals in current trials is 250 beds. This is nearly double the size of the average U.S. hospital, which has 131 staffed beds. Just over one-quarter (27 percent) of hospitals participating in clinical trials are in the Midwest, with another quarter located in the Southeast.

U.S. hospitals participating in current clinical trials

Fig. 3: Data from Definitive Healthcare’s Hospitals & IDNs database and Physicians database. Clinical trials data is sourced from the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative. Data is updated monthly. Accessed August 2020.

While there are thousands of organizations participating in clinical trials, several hospitals and health systems take part in higher numbers of studies. Understanding the organizations and providers most likely to participate in clinical trials aids in targeted recruitment strategies.

Which hospitals participate in the most clinical trials?

Leading national research institutions and academic medical centers top the list of hospitals and health systems participating in clinical trials. These physicians work on some of the most complex patient cases in the nation, making them key opinion leaders (KOLs) in their specialties.

Top hospitals and health systems participating in clinical research trials


Facility name

Definitive ID


Number of clinical trials since 2010


Mayo Clinic


Rochester, MN



Massachusetts General Hospital


Boston, MA



University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


Houston, TX



Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center


New York, NY



Duke University Hospital


Durham, NC



Dana Farber Cancer Institute


Boston, MA



Vanderbilt University Medical Center


Nashville, TN



NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center


New York, NY



National Institutes of Health Clinical Center


Bethesda, MD



University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (AKA UPMC)


Pittsburgh, PA


Fig. 4: Data from Definitive Healthcare’s Hospitals & IDNs database and Physicians database. Clinical trials data is sourced from the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative. Data is updated monthly. Accessed August 2020.

Three organizations each participated in over 2,000 clinical trials since 2010: Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Mayo Clinic’s health system has 22 hospitals under its umbrella, including locations in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was part of about 1,500 clinical studies between 2010 and 2020, while Duke University Hospitals, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Vanderbilt University Medical Center each participated in over 1,200 studies. The health system UPMC participated in the tenth most clinical trials and 23 of its 42 associated hospitals also report participation in at least one clinical trial.

The hospitals on this list focus on rarer conditions and specialized cancer types, so their doctors partake in numerous clinical trials and have access to potential trial participants. In total, the top hospitals and health systems participating in clinical trials represent 15,050 staffed hospital beds and 611,615 patient discharges.

Learn more

Are you looking for more information about the impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare delivery and technology? Watch our on-demand webinar, Examining The COVID-Driven Rise of Telehealth With Claims at any time.

Webinar hosts explore:

  • What patterns in claims data reveal about the digital expansion of healthcare
  • What these observations mean for sales organizations for companies that serve providers
  • What current regulations mean for the continued growth in digital utilization
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Definitive Healthcare

This blog was written by a former contributor at Definitive Healthcare.At Definitive Healthcare, our passion is to transform data, analytics and expertise into healthcare…

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