December 12th, 2019

How Sponsors and CROs Can Build Patient Trust in Clinical Trials

Build Patient Trust in Clinical Trials

By prioritizing informational content and embracing social media, sponsors and CROs can build lasting connections with patients. 

People are increasingly distrustful of companies that collect and handle personal data, including healthcare organizations. According to the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of U.S. adults are “somewhat” or “very concerned” about how companies use their data, and 81 percent of adults feel they have little or no control over the data that these organizations collect.  

Concerns about how pharma companies and clinical researchers use data are compounded by consumers’ general distrust of the pharmaceutical industry. According to Gallup’s 2019 ranking of 25 U.S. industries, pharma came last in public perception. In fact, Americans are more than twice as likely to rate the industry negatively (58 percent) as positively (27 percent).

So what can sponsors and CROs do to change the potential perception of pharma companies and clinical trials? Further, how can they build trust among patients and introduce them to potentially life-saving treatments?

Prioritizing Patient Education

Despite concerns over data-sharing practices, patients are more than willing to engage in online medical discourse. Google receives more than 1 billion health questions every day, comprising an estimated 7 percent of its daily searches.

As more and more patients choose to access medical information online, one way to build trust is to develop educational materials that are practical and informative. Personalized outreach should directly address patients’ experiences and areas of interest, and potential areas of concern. By engaging with patients on a personal level and recognizing the challenges they face, sponsors and CROs can establish their clinical trials as both helpful and trustworthy.

In order to build trust, sponsors and CROs should aim to connect with patients on an emotional level. For instance, content marketing that values storytelling can create a palpable difference in engagement. Instead of focusing only on what a particular treatment can offer, outreach campaigns should also tell compelling stories about patients, families, and relevant trends. Patients are more likely to respond to these human interest pieces than content that is overtly sales-driven.

Embracing Social Media 

Social media offers an exciting opportunity for sponsors and CROs to connect directly with a diverse audience. Facebook in particular boasts significant engagement among people with chronic health conditions. 

According to a recent study by Wego health, 94 percent of patients surveyed participate in Facebook groups. Many patients find these social media groups to be a safe space to share their personal experiences and healthcare concerns. By engaging ethically and earnestly with patients on Facebook and other platforms, sponsors and CROs can help safeguard social media and establish a rapport with patients.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, sponsors and CROs should consider exploring platforms like Instagram that are expressive and engaging. For example, Instagram stories can show a human side to clinical trials with content highlighting individual patients and healthcare providers.

For sponsors and CROs, the key to repairing trust and boosting public image is engaging with patients. Digital messaging should ensure that patients understand not only what clinical trials offer, but also that researchers and healthcare providers empathize with their experiences. By approaching patients with genuine, informative content, sponsors and CROs can reach out to new audiences and deepen the trust of existing ones.