When reading about patient centricity one might get the impressions that technology will make it all happen. A lot of money is spent on portal solutions to make trial information more accessible for patients, and on mobile apps that will make it easier for patients to share the information the industry needs from them. But looking at these solutions the question pops to mind how all of this will make recruitment more patient centric.
To understand if and how technology will make recruitment more patient-centric we have to take a closer look at the process of patient recruitment.
Anyone who wants to successfully recruit patients for a trial goes through the following steps:
By implementing the right technology each of these steps can be made more effective and more efficient.
Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems for instance can make identifying potential patients much easier. This will be even more effective if we have a national or international record standardization in place. And provided that the patient’s contact details are up to date these systems will make finding and selecting patients for trials easier and faster. Other examples of technology supporting patient recruitment are the many web-portals and accompanying mobile apps that make trial information accessible in a more user friendly manner. Potential patients can use these portals to look for trials that are of interest to them.
These types of initiatives certainly have an added value but are too reactive and not patient-centric enough for a more effective patient recruitment. We simply cannot assume that the full target-group is actively looking for trial information or that the information we have on potential patients is still valid and up-to-date. And apart from this; none of them address more important steps like Target-group profiling, Inform & Convince and Commitment & Relationship building.
The trial protocol holds the criteria for patient selection, but it doesn’t say anything about where and how to find these patients. Depending on the type of trial you may be able to get in touch with patients that are still in active treatment. If not, then you are forced to reach out to patients you don’t have any contact details of. Only by getting a clear understanding where your target-group is coming from and how they live their lives you will be able to figure out through which traditional and/or digital media channels they can be reached best.
Your next challenge will be to build trust by informing the patient in a transparent and clear way about the specifics of the trial, the reasons why he should participate and the risks and benefits involved. This has nothing to do with technology but everything with communicating information in a language and form the patient understands, with treating patients as equals and with building a true partnership with patients. As an industry we have to understand that we need the patient to help us run these trials. And we can only convince patients to do so if they trust us.
Too often potential patients are lost simply because we didn’t get our message across. That’s why it is so important to review how information about the trial is transferred. Make it a point to explain things in simple terms, to use interactive and video supported means of information exchange and to be attentive to questions patients have.
The final step is about building and maintaining a mature relationship with the patient. This will not only build and strengthen their commitment to support the trial, but in the long run will also help you to extend the message of you being a patient-centric organization. Patient centricity is a continuously improving process and that can only happen if we maintain a partnership with the patient and keep listening to what he has to say about his concerns and needs.
Technology can help to make patient centric recruitment happen, but only if we see technology for what it really is: a mean to an end.