Healthcare institutions may often prohibit “cold-calling” or direct contact with a potential research participant when the person initiating contact is unknown to the patient. This policy aims to maintain patient privacy, but may have unintended consequences as a result of physician gatekeeping. In this review, we discuss recruitment policies at the top academic institutions. We propose an ethical framework for evaluating cold-call policies based on three principles of research ethics. In order to maximize engagement of potential research participants, while maintaining patient privacy and autonomy, we then propose several alternative solutions to restrictive cold-call policies, including opt-in or opt-out platforms, a team-based approach, electronic solutions, and best practices for recruitment. As healthcare has evolved with more collaborative, patient-centered, data-driven care, the engagement of potential research participants should similarly evolve.