Patient Centricity: Clinical Trial Buzzword or Best Practice?

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New technology can improve the clinical trial experience for participants, but are sponsors and CROs on board with patient centricity?

In the last few years, much has been made of patient centricity in clinical trials. As patients seek out more and more health information online and expect a higher standard of service, clinical trials are struggling to recruit and retain qualified participants. But do sponsors and CROs really believe that a greater focus on patient centricity is the solution, or is it simply a buzzword?

A recent survey of 208 healthcare industry professionals reveals that, although patient centricity is top-of-mind for clinical trials, we have some roadblocks to overcome before patient-centric practices become the new standard. A majority — 79% — of survey respondents believe that patient centricity is a meaningful initiative, but 21% have their doubts. Here’s why trials struggle to implement it as a best practice and how technology can help.

The Challenge of Implementation

The survey revealed a major challenge with implementing patient centricity: gathering patient feedback. Most trials use some combination of patient advocacy groups, focus groups, and individual interviews to gauge satisfaction, but 36% reported that their companies don’t use these feedback loops to measure centricity. Even worse, 29% said that they don’t ask patients for feedback at all.

This lack of concern for patient input should alarm sponsors and CROs — how are clinical trials supposed to improve patient centricity practices without sufficient feedback? Unfortunately, the survey indicates that trials aren’t planning on changing their ways. Only 44% reported that their companies will work to increase centricity in the next two years, and even fewer believed that their competitors would do the same.

Looking to the Future

So what’s the key takeaway? In spite of the generally slow start, sponsors and CROs clearly recognize the importance of centricity, as well as the fact that patients are going to expect increasingly streamlined and personalized interactions as time goes on. The challenge? Improving the patient experience while reducing costs and maximizing ROI.

The good news is that emerging technologies can solve both problems at once. Mobile health apps and wearables allow patients to communicate with trials remotely and even transmit medical data, eliminating unnecessary follow-up visits. Transportation solutions like ridesharing lower barriers to access for lower-income patients while increasing adherence. Patient-centric practices don’t have to be mutually exclusive with greater margins; in fact, the best investments will appeal to trials and participants alike.

We also acknowledge that trials need a standardized method for measuring centricity and incorporating feedback. Sponsors and CROs currently use a variety of metrics — including patient satisfaction, adherence, and clinical outcomes — as stand-ins for centricity. With a standard rubric for determining how patient-centric a trial’s processes and technology are, it’ll be easier to prove the value of those practices.

Whether or not trials are ready for the change, participants expect a mobile-friendly, convenient, and patient-centric experience. If sponsors and CROs are willing to take the leap, they’ll see improvement in recruitment, retention, and ROI.

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