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  • Ash Rishi

How patient experience mapping can improve patient recruitment and retention


It’s becoming more and more important to find new ways to increase recruitment and retention in clinical studies, and ultimately improve the patient experience. With the average cost to recruit and retain one patient being around $7,600 and the loss in revenue (due to delays) being an estimated $40m per month, it’s no surprise that pharma and biotech companies want to be more patient-centric and improve the clinical study experience.


By engaging with your patient and aiming to improve their experience from the get-go, it’s more likely they’ll want to take part, and less likely they’ll want to drop out. Targeted recruitment strategies and patient-influenced protocol design are just a few ways you can do this. But, how can you make sure that you’re really improving your patient’s experience at every stage of the study?


You need a deep understanding of their journey.


The importance of understanding

Being patient-centric essentially means putting the patient first. That means with every decision you make, from start to finish, you should always have your patient in mind.

A huge part of being patient-centric is:

  • Understanding your patient – such as their health, personal goals, motivations and priorities

  • Understanding their journey – from diagnosis, to study participation and post-study. This includes knowing how things change at each stage.

Your patient’s journey isn’t going to be easy – they have to emotionally adjust to their diagnosis, retain loads of information about clinical studies and potential treatments, and then there’s the confusing consent documents…


It’s no doubt that different challenges will crop-up along the way, and that’s why it’s important to understand your patient and their individual journey. It means you can help them to overcome obstacles with empathy and knowledge, allowing their experience to be the best it can be. And in turn, this means they’re more supported and they’ll feel more comfortable about taking part.


Mapping the experience

So, you know why it’s important to understand your patient and their journey, but how do you do it? Two powerful tools can be used:

  • Persona mapping

  • Journey mapping

These tools are often used in the customer experience discipline but will be just as useful for your patient-centric approach.


Persona Mapping

Personas have proven to be equally effective across multiple industries – from finance to retail, and anything in-between. And it’s no different for clinical trials, because essentially, it’s all about understanding your customer (or patient, in this case) so that you can provide the best service, tailored to them.


Persona mapping in clinical trials means getting to know more about your patient. Yes, you’ll start with the inclusion/exclusion criteria to know if your patient can take part. And you’ll learn about their health-related factors and basic demographics: age, gender, occupation and location. But persona mapping goes beyond this.


What are their motivations? What are their interests? How do they like to be engaged?

You could get this information in a number of ways. For example, through social listening, involving patient advocacy groups, or getting the information first-hand by talking to the patients themselves.


A typical patient persona would include the following:

  • Basic demographics

  • Health-related factors

  • Psychographic factors

  • Ethnographic factors

By going beyond the basics, you can engage with your patient with their specific goals and preferences in mind. Too often, it can be easy to fall back into the statistics and numbers. But developing a persona builds empathy, and it allows you to communicate with your patient in a way that suits them. Ultimately, putting your patient’s preferences first.


Journey Mapping

The next step is mapping the patient journey. This starts with reviewing the protocol of your study, looking at your patient persona, and exploring how it will work. Will the study you’ve developed be suitable for your patient?


It’s about walking through each stage of your study and identifying any areas for improvement.


Just a few examples of questions that you can ask yourself at each stage include:

Recruitment

  • Is there a website where your patient can learn about a trial?

  • Are patient advocacy groups involved? Do they have enough information about the trial?

Participation

  • Is the informed consent document confusing? Or is it easy for patients to understand?

  • Is there a patient support program to support the patient through the trial

Completion / Follow-Up

  • Has the patient been thanked?

  • Have you created a ‘closure plan’ – for example, are there initiatives in place for letting your patients know about the results from the trial?

  • Are the results easy to understand?

Mapping out the journey, means you can review every stage of your study and check that you’ve always got your patient at the core of your decision-making.


Putting the solutions in place

Once the personas are developed and the patient journey is mapped, solutions can be put in place that will not only improve recruitment but maintain retention.


Journey mapping means you can highlight the moments that matter; you can identify the key stages that have the most patient engagement and discover any gaps where you can potentially add more value.


But what’s more is that you’ve developed a patient persona, which means you can review each stage of your study with empathy and understanding, and find the best ways to engage with your patient. For example, if you’ve learned that your patient prefers to find out more information themselves online – have you created a website that they can look at in their own time?


Essentially, the solutions you put in place at each stage of your study will be specific to your patient – improving the patient experience, and improving recruitment and retention.

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