Digital Intake Platforms Effective as Source of Trial Information, Survey Shows
The computer tablet patients use to check in for doctors’ office visits can also serve as an effective trial recruiting tool, according to a new survey that shows this source of information on trial participation is the fourth most trusted by patients after doctors, nurses and pharmacists and before other office staff.
The survey conducted by Phreesia, a developer of patient intake software, compared different methods of communicating information on clinical trials and how much patients trusted them. Out of almost 4,400 responses, 46 percent said they trusted their doctors’ recommendations, followed by nurses at 34 percent and pharmacists at 26 percent. Almost one-fourth of respondents (24 percent) said they trusted the information they read on an intake tablet.
Less trusted avenues included other doctor’s office staff (21 percent), family and friends (18 percent), medical/health websites (13 percent), printed materials outside of doctor’s offices and pharmaceutical websites (10 percent each). At the bottom of the list were both social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and radio advertisements, with just 5 percent each.
The survey was presented to patients on a digital tablet just after they’d finished their doctors’ office intake forms.
“If this proves to be a viable digital channel for discovering more about clinical trials, this can only mean good things for clinical research more broadly,” said Jai Seth, senior research manager at Phreesia, which does not yet have a product or presence in clinical trial recruiting.
But, Seth told CenterWatch Weekly, “based on what patients are saying in this survey, indicating their level of interest and trust, it probably makes sense for intake platforms to explore.”
Thus, a new mode for clinical trial recruiting may soon be hitting the market.
But why were patients so comfortable learning about trials they could sign up for via a digital intake platform? Phreesia didn’t dig that deep with its survey, but those who work in the field surmise it could have something to with being intimidated by doctors.
“By having this conversation (on a tablet) at intake, you have the option of introducing patients to the concept of a clinical trial before it’s ever mentioned by anyone with a white coat on, which helps with buy in,” said Catherine Gregor, chief clinical trial officer at Florence, a clinical trials platform that connects pharmaceutical companies and study sites.
Gregor said reading about trials while waiting to get in to see their doctor gets patients thinking more deeply about their willingness to participate in a trial, then by the time they get in to see their doctor, they’re more ready to talk particulars — or deliver a hard no.
Presenting patients with the possibility of trial participation before they see their doctor is also better for the flow of operations once the exam begins, Gregor said. Even physicians who are actively recruiting for a trial will forget to recruit when patients are in the exam room, she said. But if patients already have the conversation in mind, they can bring it up if their doctor doesn’t.
Gregor, who was formerly director of clinical research administration at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, said this concept is not new to academic health centers, which have in recent years used digital intake platforms to begin introducing the centers’ patients to clinical trials. But the concept is not really as common in community health centers, where there are typically fewer studies going on, she said.
Gregor said she could see it taking off in the community space, as it helps to demystify the concept of clinical trials, creating more dialogue around them and “making clinical trials seem like part of their care.”
Could this mean more digital intake platform companies will begin approaching physicians who work on trials and offering the intake platform as an option for recruiting? Likely yes, Seth says.
“Physicians are always making sure there’s patient willingness for new strategies, and our data suggest that there is,” he said.
Phreesia’s survey also showed that patients visiting their doctors’ offices would be amenable to getting approached about participating in trials, but the lion’s share of them have never been asked — in that setting or anywhere else.
The survey showed that while 68 percent of respondents were interested in learning more about trials that might be relevant to them, only nine percent had ever been approached by their doctor or their doctor’s staff about participating in a trial.
A mere 11 percent said they had applied to be considered for a trial, four percent said they had been denied participation and eight percent reported they had been accepted in a trial and enrolled.
The survey also looked at racial breakdown on who is most likely to trust the various information sources on trials and found variations by race and ethnicity.
Black survey respondents were the most likely to trust a digital check-in platform (30 percent) compared to Asian (21 percent) and White (23 percent) patients.
Just one-third of Black respondents said they were likely to trust trial information from their doctor, compared to 43 percent of Asian patients and 49 percent of White patients. On the other hand, Black respondents had more trust in clinical trial information coming from nurses (29 percent) than did Asian respondents (24 percent), with White respondents expressing the most trust in this source (36 percent).
Medical/health websites were not trusted much by any group; Asian and Black respondents had the most trust in this source (18 percent), while only 12 percent of White patients trusted it.
Whites were even less trusting of pharmaceutical websites; just eight percent of White respondents reported trusting pharma as a source, compared to 15 and 16 percent, respectively, of Asian and Black respondents.
Seth said there were no surprises in the demographic data that came from the survey, adding that it can be used to help research enterprises better tailor their recruitment efforts.
“When I speak to life sciences companies, what I say is: take heed of the fact that people trust different sources of information and tend toward the type of information they trust more,” he said.