November 21st, 2019

How to Increase Clinical Trial Adherence with Patient Support Programs

clinical trial adherence

Successful clinical trials depend on patients carefully following their treatment plans, but it can be difficult for sponsors and CROs to ensure adherence. Here’s how support programs can help.

Patient adherence is critical to clinical trial success. When participants follow through on their commitments, sponsors and CROs can acquire the necessary data to ensure that treatments are safe and effective, as well as meet their publication deadlines.     

However, many clinical trial participants find it difficult to stay on track with their treatments. Patient non-adherence can be divided into four major categories: socio-economic, condition-related, healthcare system-related, and drug-related. For example, a patient participating in a clinical trial might skip taking their medication for a few days because it is difficult or burdensome to administer (drug-related) or because they have had negative experiences with researchers or physicians (healthcare system-related). 

Non-adherence can cause expensive delays and skewed research results. In fact, clinical trial delays cost pharmaceutical companies up to $600,000 per day for lesser-known drugs and up to $8 million per day for more popular products. When clinical trials are shut down prematurely due to compliance issues, everyone – from the researchers who have invested their expertise to the patients who are depending on treatment – is affected.    

Navigating non-adherence has been a significant issue with clinical trials for years, but there are concrete steps sponsors and CROs can take to improve compliance. Patient support programs, combined with intelligent digital marketing, have been shown to increase clinical trial adherence and ensure that trials are completed on time.  

Patient Support Programs Increase Adherence

Patients know that participating in a clinical trial is a big responsibility, so it’s important for sponsors and CROs to do all they can to make following through on that commitment as convenient as possible. There’s no wrong way to implement patient support programs as long as patient centricity is a primary focus. For instance, since up to 50 percent of patients miss clinical trial appointments due to transportation issues, some sponsors and CROs have partnered with ride-sharing apps like Lyft to help get patients to investigator sites. 

Patient engagement support programs have also proven to be effective in increasing adherence. While digital solutions that focus on one disease are a step toward patient-centricity, they often leave out patients who struggle with more than one ailment. Patient support apps that incorporate a variety of different conditions can generate over 20 interactions per patient per week, and help participants feel more connected to their healthcare providers.   

Many patients drop out of clinical trials because they’re unprepared for the side effects of treatment. Sponsors and CROs should take these concerns into account when preparing patients for clinical trials. Using support programs to educate participants about managing the side effects of their treatment – and doing so with tact and empathy – goes a long way toward making sure patients feel safe and supported.

Digital Marketing Supports Patient-Centric Design

Digital marketing strategies solidify the efforts of patient support programs, as well. If adherence is an issue because patients are forgetting to take their medications – or forgetting the proper dosage – digital marketers can use patients’ digital tools to prompt them to comply. A friendly reminder in the form of an email or app alert can remind trial participants that their providers are there to help.

There’s a common misconception that only people who grew up in the digital age regularly use the Internet, but recent studies have shown that 67 percent of seniors are active online and Baby Boomers spend 20 hours a week on the Internet. This means that clinical trials can tap into a large pool of potential patients by ramping up their digital presence. In particular, sponsors and CROs can recruit patients online through targeted search results and social media ads. 

Clinical trials must put patient support first in order to increase drug adherence, improve the patient experience, and ensure the validity of research results. Nuanced digital marketing strategies and patient-centric programming empower patients to stay on track and enjoy the benefits of potentially life-saving treatments.