A new study reveals that patients want to participate in clinical trials, but few discuss clinical research with their doctors. Fortunately, digital channels offer sponsors and CROs a direct line to patients searching for treatment options.
Patient enrollment has long been a challenge for clinical trials, leading to rising costs, delays in drug and device development, and even termination of studies. A recent report reveals that while most patients are aware of the importance of clinical trials, they don’t understand the research process, and even perceive trials as burdensome.
“Patient enrollment is one of the biggest causes of drug development delays, and one way to address that is by raising awareness among patients and educating them about research,” explains study leader Annick Anderson, director of research services at the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation in Boston, MA.
The results of this report illuminate areas for improvement for CROs and sponsors, and present new opportunities for patient recruitment. By understanding how people learn about studies and what motivates them to participate, clinical trials can build effective strategies for attracting new patients.
What Patients Already Know about Clinical Research
Anderson’s study surveyed over 12,000 people in 2017, nearly 2,200 of whom had already participated in one or more clinical trials. About 85% of these respondents believed that clinical research is important to developing new drugs, and 90% thought that participating in a trial is generally safe.
While most people surveyed saw trials as an important part of medical research, 45% reported that they rarely discussed clinical studies with their doctors. In fact, only 18% of respondents had actually participated in clinical research. Of those who had, nearly half said that it disrupted their lives.
In response to patients’ hesitation toward and lack of awareness about clinical trials, researchers and federal groups are looking for ways to make studies more patient-centric. CROs and sponsors are encouraged to further examine the day-to-day experience of trials from a patient’s perspective. This includes minimizing risks, improving benefits, and increasing convenience.
Strategies to Boost Patient Enrollment
Currently, most patients find out about clinical research through their doctors. However, many doctors are not mentioning trials as a treatment option, which means that patients don’t have the necessary information or awareness to enroll.
Fortunately, the rise of digital marketing offers the opportunity for clinical studies to engage directly with patients and even fine-tune their messaging through A/B testing. While only 15.9% of survey respondents reported hearing about trials through patient advertisements, utilizing social media and search ads can help CROs and sponsors dramatically increase this number.
Patients already recognize the importance of clinical research, so trials should build ad campaigns that emphasize the scientific value of finding a new cure or treatment for a particular condition. Additional patient motivations like financial incentives and access to affordable healthcare can also be effective hooks.
As trials become more patient-centric, digital marketing efforts can begin to dispel negative ideas about the burdens of participation. Highlighting at-home visits, free transportation through ride-sharing services, and wearable devices could help minimize patients’ concerns about trials disrupting their lives. This two-pronged approach — advancing both trial design and marketing efforts — will likely lead to increased enrollment, reduced costs, and a more efficient drug and device development process.