Digital technologies can improve patients’ attendance of clinical trial appointments, or even reduce the need for regular appointments altogether.
From transportation issues to simply forgetting about their commitments, there are several reasons patients do not show up for their clinical trial appointments. Yet, no matter the cause of absenteeism, missed clinical trial appointments can cost sponsors, CROs, and researchers valuable time and resources.
To mitigate these costs, sponsors and CROs must first focus on understanding the challenges patients face when participating in clinical studies. With this perspective, they can build effective solutions to make clinical trials more convenient and accessible to patients, and thus reduce no-shows. Most notably, sponsors and CROs can use digital technologies to craft patient-centric clinical trials that boost patient attendance and compliance.
To that end, here are five tools sponsors and CROs should consider adopting in order to limit missed appointments and improve their chances of meeting important deadlines.
1. Wearables and Remote Monitoring
Wearable technologies allow physicians and researchers to monitor, diagnose, and treat patients from anywhere in the world. For instance, ingestible devices measure drug adherence and efficacy, allowing a doctor to adjust a patient’s medication and dosage in more or less real time.
With access to such up-to-date information, clinical trials not only obtain more accurate and comprehensive data, but also increase convenience for both researchers and patients. Indeed, these technologies can be used to greatly reduce the number of appointments required to participate in a study, or even facilitate an entirely virtual clinical trial.
2. Ride-sharing Partnerships
According to one report, up to 50 percent of patients who are considering participating in clinical research cite a lack of transportation as an obstacle to doing so. Many patients rely on public transit or family members to get them to their appointments, and are unable to attend if their rides fall through.
To streamline transportation to and from testing sites, many clinical trials are partnering with ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Uber Health, for example, orchestrates rides to and from certain clinical trial sites, offering patients a quicker, simpler, and often free alternative to public transit. For many patients, such a convenient transportation alternative might be the determining factor in whether they are able to make their appointments.
3. Email/Text Reminders
Many patients have a hard time fitting clinical trial participation into their busy schedules, and are wont to miss appointments, especially if they’re scheduled weeks or months in advance. To prevent this, sponsors and CROs can prompt patients to attend their appointments with simple email or text reminders. In fact, one study found that email reminders reduce patient no-shows by 35 percent. Fortunately, these reminders need not add yet another item to researchers’ plates — they can be automated with digital tools so researchers don’t have to worry about contacting patients manually.
4. Online Scheduling Tools
As texting and social media become increasingly popular forms of communication, patients are less willing to call up clinical trial coordinators in order to schedule an appointment. One survey found that nearly half (42 percent) of patients would prefer to make an appointment via a website instead of calling their provider on the phone.
By investing in online scheduling tools, sponsors and CROs can make it easier for patients to schedule appointments, and thus make it more likely that patients will show up when they are expected to. Further, by automating scheduling, sponsors and CROs can do their part to reduce the burden put on busy researchers and study coordinators.
5. Telehealth Services
While many of the options outlined above may reduce the number of appointments required to participate in a clinical trial or make it easier for patients to visit testing sites, some patients — including those with disabilities or those who live in remote areas — may still find it prohibitively difficult to reach a participating clinical trial site. Fortunately, telehealth services, which allow patients to consult with providers via video calls, can bring quality medical care right into patients’ homes.
Telemedicine has the potential to reduce overhead expenses for clinical trials and increase convenience for patients. It can also expand a clinical trial’s patient pool to include individuals who live in rural areas or far away from testing sites. Many clinical trial participants are elderly or disabled, and telehealth allows them to attend important appointments without leaving the comfort of their own homes.
Using Patient Centricity to Boost Attendance
These digital tools tackle the problem of missed appointments by seeking to understand and address the challenges many clinical trial patients face. By meeting patients’ needs and bringing essential resources directly to them, sponsors and CROs can improve engagement and compliance, and avoid the costs generated by no-shows. Ultimately, these strategies are likely to compress trial timelines and help researchers meet their goals.