Communication Counts: 6 Communication Tips for Your Clinical Trial


While clinical trials have the potential to significantly improve public health, their impact can be damaged by inferior or absent communication. Ultimately, the most effective forms of communication convey the scientific value of your trial, mobilize community involvement, and continually inform and update all key stakeholders in order to maintain engagement. Let’s take a closer look at seven ways to make sure your clinical trial communication efforts are working in your favor. 

1. Make It a Team Effort

While a single member of your team may be responsible for managing communications efforts, the job is far from a one-person effort. Designate a communication team — including the PI, a community outreach staff member, and study coordinators –comprising the comprehensive range of trial-related tasks, from the science to community engagement.  This team should work collaboratively to devise a communication plan and ensure that all staff members understand their respective roles. 

2. Be Visible

Managing how your clinical trial is perceived is a critically important endeavor. The key to positive perception? Visibility. Providing ongoing community education about your research and process helps develop trust, reinforce a sense of community, and promote engagement. From sponsoring community education forums to participating in events, your consistent presence demonstrates not just a commitment to the trial, but to the health and wellness of the community and its people.

3. Practice Proactivity

While patient recruitment may gets the lion’s share of buzz, patient retention is just as essential. Minimize drop outs by checking in regularly with volunteers to ensure that they feel heard and valued. This also allows you to act quickly to manage misinformation or quell rising discontent. One simple way to get a better sense of participant feelings? Set up a suggestion box in the waiting room or site location.

4. Begin at Home

The most effective communications start internally. Internal stakeholders, including trial staff, sponsors, and funders, are not just staff members, but advocates for your clinical trial. Keep them informed throughout every stage of the trial to maximize their contributions. 

5. Avoid Misunderstandings

While scientific information can be confusing, its clarity is paramount as lack of understanding — or misunderstanding — can lead to detrimental consequences. Make your message is interpreted correctly by using straightforward language, committing to consistency when talking about products and concepts, and focusing on the “human” element. For example, describe the people who participate in your trial as “participants” or “volunteers,’ as opposed to “subjects.”

6. Focus on the “Big Picture”

Justifying the need for clinical research to people with limited scientific backgrounds is a challenge. In order to clearly communicate with your audience, it’s important to deliver a “big picture” viewpoint. After all, the details don’t matter if an audience fails to comprehend the need for your study, your processes, and the potential public health benefits associated with your clinical trial. Sincerity is essential: people want to make a difference, and the right communication demonstrates that they can. 

Ultimately, the results of your clinical trial are only as meaningful as the efficacy with which they’re communicated to your constituents. These seven tips not only ensure that all stakeholders are adequately informed about your clinical trial, but that they’re also empowered by understanding why it matters.

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