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3 steps to increase patient retention rates in clinical trials


In a recent blog, we showed you evidence that suggests retention rates are falling in clinical trials. Yes, it was a bit disheartening. But there are some straightforward things you can do to turn it around.

Firstly, let’s think about why there are challenges in patient retention. Well, they mostly come under two core barriers:

  • Patients and carers end up forgotten about once the recruitment box is ticked

  • Study designs aren’t patient or carer centric

So, what can we do about improving patient retention?

As an industry, we need to do more to make patients and carers feel valued when they dedicate their time to clinical trials. We need to recognise each person as an individual, with their own unique preferences and needs. We need to design studies with patients and carers at the core. And once we start to do this, we start optimising the patient experience, which will undoubtedly up the chances of a patient choosing to stay in a study.

Feeling convinced? Here’s what to do next.

Step 1. Gain insights

When it comes to patient retention, one of the biggest mistakes sponsors can make is assuming they know how patients feel and think. All without actually speaking to them. So how do they know if the clinical study is really going to help their patients, without their insights?

Gathering patient insights is best done as early as possible, but it’s never too late! Surveys, focus groups and social media listening are just three examples of how you can get the insights you need at every stage of your clinical study. By speaking with patients and carers, you can gain their perspective on how they are really affected by a condition and what outcomes are most meaningful to them. You can identify patient personas and how you can tailor your retention strategy to meet everyone’s needs. Plus, you can establish if simple changes can be made to your study design to make it more patient centric and therefore easier for patients to take part.

Step 2. Analyse

Great, you’ve got the insights you need. Now take a closer look, because these will tell you how you can boost retention rates. Potential insights you may collect are:

  • Patients who previously took part or left your study didn’t feel valued.

  • Carers didn’t feel listened to and weren’t asked for feedback.

  • Patients and carers received no updates on the results of the study.

  • Your study design has too many or too frequent visits.

  • Procedures (such as scans) occur too often in the study schedule.

Step 3. Act

As important as it is to gather insights, if you don’t do anything with them, what’s the point? Once you’ve heard from patients and carers, make a change. Actions you could take based on the example insights include:

  • Simply say ‘thank you’ - encourage a grateful mentality among site staff and distribute thank you cards.

  • Regularly ask for feedback from carers on their experience of the study.

  • Share timely updates on the study, while considering how each individual prefers to receive information e.g. do you know if your patient prefers a newsletter by email or post?

  • Reconsider your study design and decentralise. Perhaps more visits could take place at home, or patients could use technology to report outcomes remotely.

  • ·Reduce the number of invasive procedures to remove patient (and site) burden.


Ready to overcome your study’s patient retention challenges?

COUCH Health are here to help. We specialise in effectively engaging with patients and carers and can fully support you with the 3 steps outlined above. Gain insights, analyse, and act. We really do make it that simple. If this post has left you wanting to learn more, then check out our white paper on patient engagement, where we uncover more ways to maximise your clinical trial retention rates.



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