Whether it's Alzheimer’s clinical trials or research on depression, every area of clinical research has been hit by COVID-19. Thankfully, some studies are now managing to salvage the crucial financial resources that disappeared over the lockdown period; in the UK, a £400 million government investment will contribute to the essential grant funding relied on by many research sites today. Yet, despite the industry’s financial recovery, there is still a lot of work to be done in rebuilding patient confidence. A recent survey by the British Medical Association found that, of the 10,000 doctors who took part, over two-thirds stated that they had either ‘little’ or ‘no confidence’ in the NHS’ ability to provide safe patient care.
When medical professionals are seriously doubting the capabilities of their own health service, we must assume that patient confidence is far lower. Today, we take a look at the issue at hand and what our industry can do to regain patient confidence for post-COVID research. Check out our breakdown below.
Where are the issues?
Unfortunately, the root of the problem is deeper than initially thought. In fact, patient confidence has been on a gradual decline for years prior to the pandemic. Back in 2014, it was estimated that 9 million people in the US had developed iatrophobia, a fear of the doctor, with the Center for Disease Control, in 2017, reporting that 34% of Americans aged 18 to 64 had not spoken with or seen a doctor in a year. In the US, there is a systemic issue surrounding the patient’s ability to access healthcare - and consumer confidence is partly to blame here.
Where are the solutions?
Add an incentive
According to government statistics, the US unemployment rate now sits at around 11% - with 1.3 million people applying for unemployment benefits this week alone. As many across the country now face both health and financial crises, clinical research is a prime method of alleviating a lot of this burden for individuals.
While paid clinical trials have produced heated debate over the years, with concern surrounding their ethical considerations, their use in the midst of a global pandemic may be exactly what the industry needs to target these two major problem areas. With the backing of an independent Ethics Committee, paid clinical trials offer candidates a steady income over the course of a single trial as well as providing potentially vulnerable patients comprehensive healthcare. As 86% of clinical trials fail to meet recruitment targets every year, offering an assessed monetary supplement to candidates is perhaps the most straightforward mode of tackling the patient recruitment and confidence crisis.
Educate about eligibility
They say ignorance is bliss, but they weren’t talking about public awareness of clinical studies! A recent survey found that two-thirds of respondents didn't know who clinical trials were targeted at. In fact, this same study suggests around half of all Americans are not aware that clinical trials even exist. Within the mass uncertainty, however, one thing is clear: a lack of familiarity equals a lack of confidence.
Not to worry: the nationwide "not for me" attitude can be easily countered by education. Success here comes down a strong feasibility analysis. (Check out our top tip for managing your feasibilities here.) A plan that targets a specific demographic with the right, relatable sound bites is sure to counteract any concern. Use the data gathered from your initial research to outline your ideal candidate and relinquish any misconceptions. Share, retweet, or regram to let people know if they can get involved. In short, focus your early efforts on spreading awareness. At the end of the day, any researcher's goal should be to make participation in clinical studies the accepted, the norm and the "for me".
Last month, a survey by digital analytics firm, McKinsey & Company, found that more than 75% of consumers asked have experimented with alternative methods of shopping, such as the use of online shopping and delivery services. When we compare this with the fact that 4.57 billion people are online today, it’s clear that the developed world has now developed technology into their everyday routines. So, how do clinical studies benefit from this?
Recent developments from companies like Pfizer, Science 37 and Aicure prove that clinical research can reap a wealth of benefits from virtualization (check out our breakdown of these developments here). Clinical trials are often delayed or fail due to difficulty recruiting research participants, and it is evident that virtual trials - especially in recent years - outshine their traditional counterparts in terms of recruiting successfully. Virtual trial recruitment notes that distance, disability, and the need for frequent in-person visits are major barriers to participation in trials with standard clinical protocol; with a study in Alzheimer’s disease finding that home visits were the factor most likely to enable greater participation. The fact is that virtual research visits could reduce the time and travel burden of participating in research.
Carrying out clinical trials from the comfort of the participant’s home is the invaluable and entirely unique benefit of virtual trials. As public opinion sways towards safety and security above all else, when it comes to going digital, we recommend the sooner, the better.
Here at Citruslabs, we've created the ideal patient recruitment dashboard to help research sites improve their current metrics. Linked to our #1 health app, Mindmate, our patient recruitment dashboard directly connects researchers to over 3 million registered patients. Now, we would say that other models are available - but this would be a lie. In fact, unlike that offered by other patient recruitment companies, our easy-to-use dashboard is the first-of-its-kind for the market; giving research sites a unique insight into their patients’ wants and needs via industry-leading technology. The future of clinical recruitment starts here.
Still a little unsure? Check out what our customers have to say about us here.