It is no surprise that delays in clinical trial timelines can largely be attributed to issues with patient recruitment and retention. Research has shown that nine out of 10 clinical trials eventually meet their enrollment goals; however, reaching these goals usually increases timelines by double what was originally intended. A 2013 study from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development found that most sponsors and CROs rely on a limited number of traditional recruitment methods and have yet to embrace newer, non-traditional strategies, such as social media campaigns.
The rapidly evolving world of technology includes a shift from traditional “pull” marketing tactics to “push” marketing, and patient recruitment in clinical studies is not exempt. In general, consumers expect a tailored advertising experience and are drawn to engaging content. While traditional “push” or “outbound marketing” methods such as radio and television ads or direct mail campaigns have their place, a “pull” or “inbound” method of drawing in consumers has now become the standard and is a driving factor of success in business. Successful sites and SMOs are aware of this, and apply this principle to patient communication. Switching to an “inbound” strategy results in a thriving patient community that has actively chosen to interact with the site based on the targeted messaging that has been delivered to them.
Most importantly, sites create engaging content that spreads awareness of clinical research and educates patients on the drug development process. By making recruitment patient-centric and offering consistent, targeted messaging across a variety of channels, sites can engage fully with subjects, resulting in more effective studies.
While social media, including sites such as Facebook and Twitter, plays a large part in building an educated patient community, it does not stop there. For example, a patient engagement plan utilizing dedicated teams to engage with physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals can be the difference between meeting enrollment targets and falling behind. These dedicated teams attend health fairs, meet with patient advocacy groups and conduct health checks in the community. The goal is to place the patient at the heart of everything, and help them understand the clinical trial process from beginning to end.
Of course, meeting study timelines does not end with recruitment. It is equally essential to retain subjects throughout the study, and streamlining the process of collecting patient data is a key element of retention. While the healthcare ecosystems continues to shift toward a more patient-centric model, numerous technological advances are becoming more mainstream. This provides ample opportunities to maintain close interaction and ensure that each subject feels valued, thus increasing the likelihood of patient retention.
“Focusing on the patient isn’t a novel concept for clinical trials. Over the last several decades, patient recruitment providers have kept the patient at the forefront of educating individuals about clinical trials. However, in the last few years, pharmaceutical companies are being more proactive when factoring patient insights into protocol development through market research, focus groups and social listening activities,” said Melynda Geurts, vice president of Operations for DAC Patient Recruitment Services, a global central recruitment firm. “So while patient centricity sounds like the new industry buzz word, it is essential to moving clinical research forward.“
It is still necessary to ensure that every aspect of the patient experience is aimed at making patients feel comfortable and needed. This extends past initial interaction into the phone screen to the presentation of the clinic and lobby, the ease of data collection and payment procedures and the friendliness of the staff. As healthcare consumers demand more engagement from sites and drug developers, it is important to cater every aspect of the study to the patients’ needs and seek to make the entire study process streamlined and convenient. No doubt, the more flawless the experience, the more likely the patient will return for future studies. It is clear, as the healthcare ecosystem continues to evolve, that the concept of applying a patient-centric model to clinical studies will become a necessity.
Dr. Christophe Berthoux has been the chief executive officer at Synexus since September 2010. Synexus is the world’s leading site management organization (SMO), dedicated to the recruitment and management of clinical trials across the globe for over 24 years. Synexus is proud to be the patient’s choice for clinical research. Email comments and questions to email@example.com.
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