Recruiting and retaining patients has always been a challenging task in clinical trials. Although patients are the centre of all clinical trials, the procedures are often not particularly patient-centric. Over years, clinical trials have been designed and carried out by experts, without involving patients in the design process or educating them about the clinical trial. However, lately, pharmaceutical companies have realized the need of making the clinical trials more patient-centric, which emphasizes helping the patients learn about the trials, improving their experience, retaining patients and encouraging trial participation in future. Research also suggests that investing in patient engagement helps in improving enrollment as well as retention, which in turn helps timely completion of the trial. Many companies have, now, realized the significance of patient centricity in clinical trials but very few actually know about the tools and methodologies to make their procedure patient centric.
Take a look at the steps that companies can follow to make their trials more patient centric:
- Patient Profiling
Before beginning with the trial it’s important to have detailed profile of the patient population. Researchers need to go beyond the eligibility criteria and understand the everyday life of the patients, in addition to analyzing the factors that could impact their participation. This helps in creating a more focused protocol for making the participation easy. The key points to be considered during patient profiling should include, patient demographics, type of treatment, payment, and impact on the lives of the patients. A patient-centric trial design is aimed at impacting the decision of the patients and minimizing the financial, geographical and practical barriers to participation.
2. Surveying the Patients and Caregivers
Researchers also need to understand how the study would be perceived by the patients, physicians and caregivers. They are the ones that can provide a clear idea about the participation, health impact and retention. For this, direct surveys could be conducted. This is a relatively new approach in this area but obtaining feedbacks has proved to be a good contributing factor in the success of clinical trials.
3. Taking Advantage of Digital Technology
For clinical trials patients need to make frequent visits to the trials site during the period of the study for various purposes like blood draws, medication refill etc. For some patients, these visits could be quite burdensome leading to poor patient retention. A significant approach to making the trials patient centric is limiting the patient visits. Home visits by trained nurses for collecting samples or medication refill could help to encourage participation. Also, digital technology should be utilized. Devices that capture electronic data can help patients self-report their condition even from a remote location. Data collection online can be very helpful in encouraging patients to continue with the trial.
4. Regular Communication with Patients
Communicating with patients shouldn’t be restricted to face-to-face communication. Establish relationship with patients using other communication modes like online chat, calls etc. Virtual meetings should be set up with patients regularly to address their questions and concerns. It’s important to personalize the treatment wherever possible to enhance patient centricity. It’s important to consider patients as more than just a resource. Trials designed on such concepts are often difficult to implement but they can increase patient engagement, retention and satisfaction considerably.
5. Limit Number of Procedures
Deciding which procedures and tests are absolutely necessary and which ones can be avoided can be a difficult task. Important data is obtained through these procedures and more the data, easier it is to assess the effectiveness of the treatment. However, on the part of patients, increased number of procedures often causes discomfort and puts a burden on their wellbeing and time. A patient centric clinical trial focuses on limiting the number of procedures and uses only those that are absolutely necessary to determine the outcome of the trial.
For patient centricity, clinical trials need to focus more on quality of life. Pharmaceutical companies need to understand the fact that patients are people and not just resources to experiment on. Making the trial patient centric is important to enhance participation and retention, which ultimately increases the success rate.