Helping Patients Navigate Clinical Trials: What Physicians Can Do

Being in a position to answer all of these questions equips patients to provide fully informed consent. However, also ensure that patients understand their right to withdraw from a study at any time and for any reason, even after signing a consent form.

Reaching the Uninformed and the Misinformed

Physicians are well placed to reach out to patients who may never have heard about clinical trials and those who may be misinformed as a result of previous negative experiences or media representations. There are several ways to achieve this reach, each with variable levels of effectiveness. Although the most common and arguably the most effective avenue to reach the greatest number of patients is through social media, there are certain factors that may limit the effectiveness of a physician taking this route.

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Henning Sievert, PhD, head of sales operations at the patient recruitment firm Clariness GmbH said, “Generally, using social media can be a cost-effective way of spreading the word and sparking discussions on any topic, including increasing trial awareness, but it is important to keep in mind that building and maintaining a community on any medium is not a simple endeavor [and] that [it] takes a lot of time and effort.” Not only does social media reach take a long period of time, but it also requires creating and sharing interesting content related to a physician’s specialty regularly. Physicians must also engage actively and meaningfully with the audience. Coupled with the daily activities of the physician, this may be too much to handle. Even deciding to simplify the process by just advertising on social media may be ineffective without previous experience.

Even better than direct social media engagement, Dr Sievert advises physicians to use a vendor “who already has access to the relevant local community and generates further reach using paid advertising as needed.” He added, “Vendors usually have tools and processes in place to further reduce burden by prescreening interested patients and converting patients into potential subjects, capturing and providing referral data in a way that ensures that investigators can follow up with patients in a timely manner and have a high chance of receiving eligible patients.”

Empowering Patients With Knowledge

While physicians are not responsible for ensuring the success of clinical trials, they do hold responsibility for the welfare of their patients — and part of patient welfare is empowering patients with awareness of clinical trials: what they are, why they are important, how they are carried out, and who is eligible for them. Although patients can ask for such information, the proactive physician will broach the topic first, especially if they are aware of a trial that might benefit their patient.

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag