Media Room

20.11.2020

Patient Engagement Solutions for Clinical Research During COVID-19

As 2021 comes into view, clinical research professionals have an opportunity to pause and reflect on how this year has changed the clinical trial landscape. It’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic has made managing clinical trials more complicated for Sponsors and Contract Research Organizations. For the patient participant, however, there is a completely different set of challenges to consider.

Throughout the stages of clinical development, we often speak of patient engagement solutions as playing a critical role in the success of trials and the treatments they test. This holds true whether or not a global pandemic is dictating how trials are conducted. But as COVID-19 has demonstrated, innovation keeps us afloat in times of hardship. Now, more than ever, we need to seek out new ways to keep patients involved in all aspects of clinical trials. Keeping this a central focus through the pandemic and beyond will allow for more robust clinical study management and better serve patients around the globe.

Is Virtual the New Normal?

Traditionally, clinical trials rely on in-person visits made by the patient to the site. COVID-19 restrictions have now accelerated a shift toward telemedicine and virtual visits. While managing clinical trials 100% virtually is not always feasible, many components of trials can function remotely, and in many cases create more favorable conditions for the patient. It is not just current restrictions that necessitate these adaptations; the greater goal of improving patient experiences and outcomes depends on them as well. Long after the pandemic stabilizes, it is likely that many of these adjustments will become permanent solutions to issues that were present prior to COVID-19.

How CRO Services Are Adapting

There are many ways that CROs are working to bring patient-centric practices to clinical study management. The most obvious change is a digital approach to patient recruitment, which includes tactics like social media and other online advertising and outreach. Online recruitment is often more efficient and reaches a more diverse pool of participants. For example, the burden of travel can exclude a large number of people who would otherwise willingly participate in trials, so removing the barrier of location leads to more inclusivity for individuals from remote and rural areas. The practice of virtual recruitment is a tremendous leap forward for populations that could not otherwise participate in clinical research.

During COVID-19, research has demonstrated that patients have strong preferences about participation and communication once trials are underway. A survey of older individuals enrolled in phase III trials showed that patients preferred a “hybrid” approach to trial visits, favoring some level of human contact with safety precautions in place. Those participating in all-virtual trials were happy to use new technologies like Zoom, as long as proper education and instruction was provided. The key takeaway from the survey revealed that patients are highly committed to trial participation during COVID-19, but prefer more frequent check-ins, updates, and personal contact.

Results from another recent survey on patient attitudes during COVID-19 revealed that a fuller awareness of clinical research motivates patients to participate in trials. When patients are more informed on what trials entail and the impact they have on making treatments available, they are more likely to enroll. This suggests that Sponsors, CROs, and their partners should invest more in educating potential participants. Equipping patients with knowledge undoubtedly leads to more active participation and engagement.

Choosing the Right CRO Partner

Robust patient engagement solutions depend on the right combination of experience and innovation. When choosing a CRO partner for clinical study management, look for a team that brings a strong track record of study success indicators such as patient enrollment, as well as an adaptable mindset that solves challenges in forward-thinking ways.

OCT Clinical has been managing clinical trials in Russia and Eastern Europe for over 15 years. We have helped conduct over 300 studies, including over two dozen rescue studies, in the CEE and CIS regions. Among our core strengths are the abilities to meet enrollment targets, streamline project management, and properly manage data to optimize research quality. In the midst of the demanding circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, our CRO services provide much-needed efficiency to reduce the burden of drug development timelines on study sponsors worldwide.