Patient-centricity: what it means for clinical research
Literally meaning ‘patient at the centre’, patient centricity has become a bit of a buzzword among research institutions over the last couple of years. The term is thought to have originated from the UK NHS’ ‘no decision about me, without me’ initiative, and fundamentally promotes the role of the patient in every part of the clinical trial process. Why patient-centricity is so important today comes down to this: many research coordinators aren’t implementing patient-first plans from the get-go. With, on average, 86% of clinical trials failing to meet recruitment targets every year and 15-20% of sites failing to enroll a single patient, researchers everywhere are struggling to establish the key patient-researcher relationship at the heart of any successful, patient-centric protocol.
Today, we take a look at the key problems currently faced by the industry and suggest a few solutions of our own that researchers from any background are bound to find useful. Check out our breakdown below for the latest insight.
Where are the problems?
While it varies from project to project, there are 3 recurring problem areas that every researcher should address. Consider the following:
1. Company/researcher’s image
The leviathan of issues for researchers today is a general lack of awareness in society of clinical trials. While this can be traced back to a lack of knowledge around clinical trials as a whole, researchers sadly have a key role to play in this confusion. A recent survey by Clinical Leader found, when asked about a selection of current trials, two-thirds of respondents did not know who these trials were targeted at. It’s clear that patients aren’t able to connect to the message researchers are trying to communicate through your study’s branding. This needs to change because a lack of familiarity means a lack of confidence.
2. Researcher-patient communication
You’ll be surprised how often patients feel that they aren’t being listened to. The art of conversation is something practically everyone does everyday so it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that just because you can communicate, you can do it well. Unfortunately, the consequences of ineffective communication may be more serious than you think. Patients who regularly face stigmatized attitudes and behaviors are more likely to suffer a range of poor health outcomes, and even have a reduced capacity for taking care of themselves. Understanding how to communicate more effectively with your patients could be the difference between a great and a terrible patient experience.
3. Support platforms
It’s only in recent years that the need to streamline and simplify touch-points with candidates has really come into place thanks to developments in technology. With around 74% of consumers relying on the internet to help with their purchasing decisions, an ODM Group study finds, the public are actively using technology to investigate and influence their decision making process. Thus, researchers that are currently not offering some form of online support or contact platform actively hinder this investigative process.
Equally, it’s now not enough to be good at answering the phone. Social anxiety disorder affects around 15 million Americans, placing it as the third most common mental disorder in the United States. What researchers need to realise is that there is a high chance that patients will not feel comfortable starting a conversation. What coordinators can do is make sure their trials are as accessible as possible. If patients are socially-anxious about speaking to someone in person then the researcher must provide a written forum on their website. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are also a great help to patients only seeking some basic information. Giving your patients more options and a more accessible support platform can make all the difference.
What are the solutions?
To resolve these 3 issues, here are 3 practical solutions that we recommend:
1. Patient recruitment companies
The most straightforward solution to tackling all these issues is through contacting patient recruitment specialists. As we’ve previously stated in our checklist for starting a trial (check it out here), it’s totally natural for researchers to feel like they want to do all the work themselves. While this is a fantastic idea, this is a highly impractical plan. It’s absolutely essential that researchers form connections with like-minded individuals in order to break down the work and lighten the burden of their workload. It’s all about knowing what you can realistically achieve, and by having a plan and a specialised team you can ground your ideas in solid evidence and not abstract dreams.
Why stress so much about maintaining complex relationships with patients when there is a whole sector of the industry dedicated to keeping your patients happy? Researchers already have so much to stress about as it is! Overall, this means researchers can take advantage of databases full of loyal candidates that PRCs can provide. Most PRCs will run other services targeted at potential patients, and through those services they will have built up years worth of respect within their customer community. For instance, here at Citruslabs, we run our Mindmate app that not only plays a vital part in improving the lifestyles of Alzheimer’s patients but also helps us in connecting those potential patients to relevant trials. Now is the time for researchers to invest in confidence, because, right now, for clinical researchers everywhere, options are still very limited.
2. Reconsider your branding
We already have several articles in our archives that cover the ins and outs of research marketing and branding. Take a look at some of the posts listed below for more information:
3. Train staff in customer-care
According to a report by Explorance, training staff in customer service and care produces 4 key benefits for any business, regardless of sector. These benefits are as follows: higher employee motivation and engagement, improved customer communication, increased customer satisfaction, and a rise in profit. While the later of these may not be your top priority when looking for your miracle cure, these benefits that apply to general business actually make so much sense in research.
Researchers need to remember that they aren’t just dealing with data, and that there is a person behind every disease or condition; so customer care must be almost exactly the same in research. The difference is these people are patients, and, if anything, they should be spoken to with more care than your average customer. Improving the quality of your customer service through training leads to an increase in patient satisfaction, retention and loyalty.