While a tailored patient recruitment strategy is necessary to start a trial off on the right track, it is also vital to be mindful of your plan to keep these patients engaged once recruitment efforts take off. Patient retention starts when the first patient is enrolled into the study. Often, sponsors wait too long to consider retention, and find themselves trying to make up for lost time. As a result, attrition rates and costs skyrocket.
Developing a program that offers the level of information an individual seeks, as well as an ongoing dialogue that meets their expectations if they choose to participate in a trial is two-thirds of the trial. It is essential to consider the expectations of clinical trial patients when developing a retention plan. Here are some patient expectations to consider:
- Explanation of potential side effects
- Access to the PI at every visit
- Reimbursements of travel/parking expenses
- Opportunities to meet other participants
- A supportive website just for study participants
- A mechanism to tell friends about the study
- Progress reports and lab results
In layman’s terms, think about trial participants as consumers. And, think about all the information we expect to have at our fingertips when it comes to purchasing a service or product. Trial participants are one and the same. The following six elements provide the perfect formula for a successful patient retention program:
[pullquote]Ensure the sites have the right tools necessary to educate the patients”[/pullquote]
1. Understand, Educate, and Inform the Patient. Take the time needed to talk to the patient and their caregiver about the requirements of the trial and what they are committing to. Ensure the sites have the right tools necessary to educate the patients and their caregivers about the study. Tools should include those that remain at the site for reoccurring use as well as take-home materials. Successful retention greatly depends on the relationships that the research staff forges with the patients. The sooner trust is established, the more likely patients will feel a sense of commitment to the trial.
2. Appeal to the Patient’s Needs. Surveys show that patients want to receive ongoing education about their disease state. This can be established through the distribution of patient newsletters, brochures, etc.
3. Motivate the Patient to Participate. There are a number of reasons people choose to participant in clinical trials. Understanding these motivations can help enhance study engagement and compliance. For example, one motivator is receiving care from a specialist who, otherwise, may not be available. In this instance, the research staff wants to ensure that the PI spends quality time with his/her patients.
4. Offer Unprecedented Care and Attention. Ensure enough time is allocated for each patient visit with all research staff needed. Provide contact information for patients to connect with study staff throughout the trial period. Responses to all calls should happen within 24 hours.
5. Show Explicit Appreciation. This can be accomplished by sending motivational text messages or holiday, birthday, and thank-you cards. Just a simple note can express appreciation for their continued commitment and participation in the study.
6. Demonstrate the Value of Their Contribution. Maintain ongoing communication with the trial participants and follow through with what you tell them you will do.
Are there any additional factors that you would add to the list?