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Doctor reviewing clinical trial results

Tactics for More Diverse Clinical Trial Recruitment

How to Improve Patient Recruitment

Despite the many clinical trials being conducted at any given moment, finding the optimal one to participate in is a serious challenge for many patients. Lionbridge’s recent publication about patient engagement highlights the challenges potential clinical trial participants may experience in finding suitable clinical trial options. In summaries of the FDA Patient Listening Sessions, patient and caregiver communities mention that:

  • Clinical trial enrollment depends on the information available
  • There is a significant lack of awareness about clinical trials
  • There are many unknowns about clinical trials, making them a difficult choice
  • There is a misconception that certain minority groups don’t want to participate in clinical trials (but the reason they don’t participate is that they’re often not offered the opportunity to participate)

This feedback illustrates how essential accessible information is for “matching” prospective participants with clinical trials. It also highlights the disconnect between information availability and usefulness for various diverse patient communities.

Clinical trial diversity encompasses a wide range of demographic and non-demographic characteristics. Diversity could include many factors, which may all affect how trial information is sought out, understood, and acted upon. These include patients’:

  • Age 
  • Sex 
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Educational level
  • Employment status
  • Income status
  • Access to technology
  • Disabilities
  • Geographical location
  • Cultural customs
  • Linguistic preferences

Trial sponsors can increase potential participants’ awareness of trials and recruit more diverse patients with stronger, more agile communication strategies.

It may seem challenging to create a communication strategy that:

  • Resonates with target patient populations
  • Is compliant with respective regulatory and industry standards and codes
  • Doesn’t come in over-budget

These are three tactics that will help.

#1 Patient-Centric Engagement for Better Clinical Trial Recruitment

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Do desk research to seek learnings from earlier trials. Build on successes and refine what hasn’t worked out previously. Connect with target patient communities to gauge their insights. Meet with advisory boards and focus groups or conduct surveys. Insights from patients, caregivers, and families will help develop engagement strategy. Focus on what these populations prioritize and the aspects they have found lacking. Be ready as your engagement campaign progresses to fine-tune and adjust strategy to remain on track with goals and success criteria.

Feed patient input into your organization’s collective knowledge base. This makes it possible for the organization to use this shared knowledge for achieving patient centricity and patient engagement — now and in the future. This tactic will also help achieve greater trial access and patient recruitment for more diverse patient communities.

Doctor reviewing digital chart.

#2 Accessible Information for Prospective Participants

Provide relevant and targeted information with patients’ preferences in mind. Frequently, availability of information won’t equate to accessibility for patients. This view is supported by global research by Schindler and colleagues on behalf of the TransCelerate Clinical Research Access & Information Exchange Initiative. The research team investigated patient preferences when searching for clinical trials for participation on the clinicaltrials.gov registry. Drawing on the research results, the team concluded the current state of trial registrations isn’t fully aligned with patients’ and registry users’ preferences. This global research recommended sponsors improve patient focus of brief titles and brief summaries in their clinical trial registrations.

Allow for a balance of communication approaches to increase access to information. For example, face-to-face communication with different stakeholders (such as patients with lived experience of a disease and participation in clinical trials, healthcare professionals, and community workers) helps educate communities. This face-to-face communication also builds trust through sharing different perspectives and human interaction. Digital communication offers opportunity for significant increase in reach. However, it should be strategized with a prior understanding of the extent of potential digital exclusion across target communities.

#3 Nuanced Communication in Clinical Trial Recruitment

Be mindful of “quality over quantity” when formulating key trial messaging for recruiting patients. For example, communicating in complex language isn’t effective for engaging populations with low literacy levels. Excessive volumes of communication in clinical trial recruitment strategies create a “too much to read” barrier.

Ensure communication doesn’t restrict or limit access to a trial. For example, patients’ own perception of eligibility criteria (often drawn from overly prescriptive messaging) may prohibit them from inquiring about participation. Similarly, if a clinical trial requires recruiting a specific patient population with narrow characteristics, be transparent when explaining these restrictions. Clear explanations will remove potential doubts or speculations.

Create communication with a consideration of cultural values and attitudes of your target patient populations. For example, perceived stigmas against specific illnesses may hinder engagement in specific communities. Empower patients, families, and caregivers in these communities to consider trial participation by reframing stigmas with sensitive, impactful messaging.

If language support is needed, confirm providers have linguistic competence and experience in cross-cultural patient communication in clinical research. Experience in cross-cultural patient communication is essential to ensuring technical terms and concepts are communicated accurately, clearly, and using culturally appropriate language.

Test tubes for clinical research.

Get in touch

Need assistance improving your clinical trial recruitment? Our team offers deep experience, linguistic experts, and innovative technology. Contact us today to find out more about Lionbridge’s Life Sciences translation services.  

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Nataliya Volohov, Director, Clinical Solutions
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