September 27th, 2017

New Study Reveals Reason for Lack of Minority Participation in Clinical Trials


What’s the largest barrier to clinical trial participation for minority patients? You might be surprised.

A joint study by Zogby Analytics for Research!America and the Association of Clinical Research Organizations has revealed that lack of trust is no longer as much of a barrier to clinical trial participation as it once was. African-Americans reported an 11% decrease in lack of trust, while Asians, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites respectively reported 6%, 9%, and 15% decreases. This revelation demonstrates that public trust, especially minority trust, in clinical trials is increasing.

Clinical trials must continue to prioritize patient trust – especially when trying to recruit African-American patients, of whom 50% still cite it as a key barrier – but the fact remains that more patients are willing and able to enroll in trials than ever before. The main reason for abstaining from trials – lack of awareness – remains unchanged since 2013. To attract minority participants, trial sponsors and CROs need to re-evaluate their recruitment strategies and make use of technology to increase awareness throughout patient populations.

Closing the Information Gap

The success or failure of a clinical trial’s recruitment efforts hinges on awareness among its target patient demographic. Though the vast majority of study participants said they would enroll in a clinical trial if their doctor recommended it, only 25% of minority patients reported having conversations with healthcare professionals about medical research. Nearly all participants agreed that clinical trials should be discussed as a routine standard of care, but on average, physicians and nurses refer fewer than 0.2% of their patients to active studies.

It’s clear that a wide gap exists between minority patients who would be interested in participating and those who feel they have the education and support to do so. In the face of this reality, sponsors and CROs must shift to a holistic and patient-centric approach, reaching out to potential participants through both digital and traditional marketing channels.

A New Model for Patient Recruitment

Fortunately, modern technology presents a number of opportunities to reach out to potential patients. Digital advertising channels like Google AdWords and Facebook offer more targeting options than ever, allowing clinical trials to display ads to highly specific audiences. Trials can also leverage telehealth and video platforms to reduce a number of entrenched barriers to participation among minority patient demographics.

A surprising finding from the Research!America study suggests that clinical trials may be able to attract patients by appealing to their sense of altruism. African-American and Hispanic patients in particular consider the opportunity to improve the lives of others when evaluating a trial. By incorporating altruistic messaging into marketing collateral and digital ads, sponsors and CROs can not only entice potential patients to learn more about trial opportunities, but also bolster a sense of personal investment into the clinical research process itself.

Clinical trials still struggle with trust and awareness among minority patient populations, but that’s changing as more and more people seek out health information online. Put simply, in order to increase minority participation, sponsors and CROs must invest in patient centricity and digital outreach.