It is no secret that success in a clinical trial is dependent upon patient engagement. Recruiting patients for a clinical trial is one thing, but keeping them involved from start to finish is another. As healthcare reform continues to shape and the stakes increase for sponsors to drive a better clinical trial, mobile tools will be leveraged even more to better engage patients. Here are three ways you can improve your clinical trial engagement by utilizing mobile health technology.
Think of how often you communicate with patients. Do you remind them of upcoming visits? Do you share educational materials that become available? Do you contact them between visits? In maintaining a strong patient-physician relationship, communication is key. According to Jim Kremidas, Lead Investigator at CenterWatch, communication with patients is an “often-ignored barrier to the success of clinical research.” One review of randomized controlled trials on patient-physician communications reported that the quality of communication influenced patient outcomes in 16 of 21 studies. In addition, patient anxiety was found to be reduced when physicians encouraged them to share and ask questions in the decision-making process. In individual studies, effective communication have been correlated to such positive outcomes as adherence to therapy, understanding treatment risks, and even reduced risk of medical mishaps or malpractice claims. It is crucial for patients’ to feel comfortable relaying information to their physician. A patient that feels uncomfortable in this situation will likely struggle when describing their illness and symptoms.
The patient should also feel that their physician is reliable and available for their questions or concerns. Reliability is a major component of trust; an unreliable doctor essentially leads to a dissatisfied patient. So if you have told a patient you will contact them within a few days, it is necessary to follow through with that. Patients want to know that they can count on their doctor to be there. Being available is not always easy, but with advancements in mobile health technology, it has become possible.
Physicians should actively engage with the patient and establish a positive communicative relationship. One Research reported that it is important to engage with the person participating in the trail, rather than treating patients as a statistic or data point. Patients may feel that they are “guinea pigs” in the trial and may dropout. Improvements in communication will not only raise awareness of the available opportunities to enroll in a trial, but also reassure current participants of the vital importance of their role. This can be accomplished by sending appointment reminders, providing easy access to educational materials, and sharing helpful healthcare information or news.
Explain Importance of Their Participation
In addition to maintaining communication, it is important for patients’ to feel their participation in the trial is important and appreciated, especially when the trial is completed. Patients and caregivers have indicated that more can be done to let them know about the drug or trial outcome after it is completed. Last year, a survey about clinical trial participation was sent out to previous trial participants asking about their personal experiences during the trial. Several participants noted that they would have liked to have more information provided to them after the trial’s completion. One participant stated “I wish I got my information back and had more info about the study and whether it became a drug. People ask me about my experience and I am embarrassed to tell them how little information I got when I was finished.”
While this may not affect an active trial directly, it is important for the patient to leave on a positive note and be happy with their experience. If a patient leaves the trial feeling uneasy about the outcome, they will likely not participate in another trial and this attitude will extend to their friends and family members.
In addition, providing an incentive for patients to complete the trial is an effective way to keep them engaged. Some patients enrolled in a trial will see their condition improve, which provides enough incentive to continue participation. However, for others, results may not be readily apparent. Providing an incentive for the patient to finish the trial can help patients stay engaged during the trial and see it to completion.
Include Patients’ Loved Ones
In a previous blog post, we discussed the benefits of including a patients’ loved ones in the trial process. Including them in the trial process can not only help keep the patient engaged, but also prevent patient dropouts. Encourage family members to attend the visit with the patient. A study conducted on patients found that approximately 30% of patients were accompanied by family members to their appointment. The role of the family member was most frequently described by the doctor as an advocate for the patient. The influence of the main accompanying person on the patient-doctor encounter was usually described as positive.
At Parallel 6™, we have developed the Clinical 6™ platform, an enterprise strength cloud-based technology platform that enrolls, engages, connects, and reports on subjects anywhere in the world through a single interface, built to improve patient engagement and retention. Part of this platform, allows a patient’s family and friends to actively engage in the trial alongside the patient. Patients are more likely to stay with the trial with encouragement from their loved ones. In addition, if they forget to take their medication or fail to log an activity, the care circle members will be able to see this information and act accordingly.