Clinical trials are essential to identify better ways to detect and treat diseases, improve management and survival of chronic conditions, and more. But despite the value of clinical trials, they face ongoing challenges with recruitment and retention, and have a history of underrepresentation of minorities.
The 2020 Drug Trial Snapshots Summary Report found that in 2019, 72% of clinical trial participants were white, even though they only make up 60% of the population. A ProPublica analysis found that Black and Native American people were underrepresented in trials, even when the treatment was for a disease that disproportionately impacts them. The unbalanced inclusion of minorities in clinical trials means that drugs are developed and approved without an understanding of the effects of genetics, the environment, and more, which can have a significant impact on the safety and efficacy of the drug.
Technology Can Help Expand Participation Among Underrepresented Patient Populations
There are several recognized barriers for diversity in clinical trials, and while some are difficult to resolve, many can be alleviated with patient engagement technology. Text-based communication can reach a wide variety of patients, provide important information at the right time, build trust, create convenient methods of participation, and more.
According to an Accenture survey, 60% of patients want to use technology more for communicating with healthcare providers and managing their conditions. A flexible technology solution enables more personalized and accessible communication to address several key barriers.
Barrier One: Income
Patients with incomes below $50,000 are 32% less likely to participate in clinical trials than patients with higher incomes. Compensation for trials is not typically enough to cover the cost of participation for low income participants. They may not be able to miss work, provide care to elderly family members or child care, or commute to and from appointments.
Reducing barriers for low income participants would help trial sites enroll a sufficient number of diverse participants and ensure that they can successfully complete the trial. While technology can’t address compensation, it can facilitate remote data collection so patients don’t have to leave their homes or jobs to participate.
The quality of the data could even be improved as patients could be prompted on a steady cadence to report how they’re feeling in real time, rather than trying to remember between appointments. Patients could also access testing facilities closer to home and report the results via SMS text message, saving them valuable time and potentially decreasing the risk of dropout.
Barrier Two: Health Literacy
Low health literacy can impede a person’s ability to understand health information and health-related decisions can feel intimidating. This is a particular challenge for clinical trial recruitment where patients may not understand the consent process, be fearful of side effects, and confused about the benefits of participating in a trial.
Using a flexible technology platform can help you reach more patients, simplify consent processes, deliver information in the patient’s primary language, and offer resources to help patients better understand the trial specifics.
Barrier Three: Logistics
Transportation, parking costs, and finding childcare are among the logistical barriers that prevent many people from participating in clinical trials. One way these can be overcome is by decentralizing trials so that information is collected remotely instead of in person.
A technology platform that can be accessed through a mobile phone can prompt patients to check in and responses can be monitored remotely. If decentralization isn’t possible, use a patient engagement platform to connect patients to rides and social services to ensure they can participate if they want to.
Barrier Four: Distrust
Patients are typically notified about clinical trials through a physician. Many minorities and disadvantaged people may not have a trusting relationship with a physician, which leads to underrepresentation of minorities for drugs that are developed. Collaboration with community partners to help share information including text-a-code resources can help connect more patients with clinical trials.
Leveraging Technology to Create Better Outcomes
Social determinants including income and health literacy hamper the ability to recruit and retain a diverse population of patients for clinical trials. Leverage technology to bridge those gaps so that more effective therapies can be developed for everyone who may need them.
Interested in leveraging patient engagement technology for your clinical trial? Contact us.