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How to develop creative clinical trial retention strategies

It’s one thing to get people into your clinical trials but keeping them there is not only more of a challenge, it’s also vital to the success of the trial and your return on investment. It’s an old maxim in business that it costs five times more to get a new client than to retain a current one, so it’s surprising that in spite of this fact, statistics show only 18% of sponsors actually try to develop retention strategies.

The potential value of clinical trial retention strategies

The obvious advantage of keeping trial participants involved is that the trial goes on successfully. The knock-on effects, however, are that a relatively small (5%) improvement in retention rates can deliver between 25% and 95% more profit for the sponsor. In the eternal words of the TV infomercials “but wait—there’s more,” it’s also worth mentioning how clinical trial retention strategies increase the chance to improve lives and health. Poorly-participated clinical trials, on the other hand, generally don’t deliver the numbers needed for significant research results.

Recommendations for creative clinical trial retention strategies

Fortunately, there is no shortage of creative ways you can try and keep your triallists interested and involved. We’ve put together these recommendations to consider for your strategic planning.

Understand the reasons why people leave

Participants dropping out of clinical trials typically have what they consider very good reasons for leaving the trial. If you can proactively identify what these might be before they occur, you’ll be in a better position to prevent them from happening. Some of the most common arguments people make for dropping out are:

  • The participants in placebo-controlled trials often worry that they might be taking something that isn’t treating their condition. This applies particularly in cases where the person is not experiencing any actual effects of the treatment.

  • Many people don’t realise the importance of their role in a clinical trial and start to believe their contribution doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to the outcome.

  • Participants who need to travel a fair distance and attend lots of appointments could find the whole process is too much for them. This is especially relevant in trials where participants are feeling the effects of an illness, or they have physical constraints as a result of it.

People rarely drop out of clinical trials because they are no longer interested, or because the financial incentive isn’t enough. Usually, the reasons for leaving are more complex, but these can often be managed by pre-emptively paying attention to the issues that participants are dealing with and preparing clinical trial retention strategies ahead of time.

Make participation personal and meaningful

Most people love to have meaning and purpose in their lives. Showing participants how important their inclusion is in a clinical trial can bring it home to them that they aren’t only helping themselves, they are potentially helping humanity discover new cures for medical conditions. You can go beyond the drug testing phase, too, by involving them in the design of the trial from the beginning. This gives them a stronger sense of ownership and engagement, both of which are proven to increase retention. Getting participants to help choose the name and branding and to feel part of the overall journey creates a social contract that enables you to re-recruit and re-engage them at multiple touch points.

Include a portal in clinical trial retention strategies

With the ability these days to do everything from shopping to managing our banking online, it makes sense that people expect a company conducting clinical trials to be tech-savvy. Providing a portal where participants can set up a profile, view and update their personal information and see how their condition is being managed increases their confidence in the trial sponsor. Statistics show 73% of trial participants were in favour of this idea, which suggests that a method of accessing information online could be an important factor in retention.

A secure online profile offers other options for interacting with participants, too, via instant messaging or email. It’s a great way to send alerts, appointment reminders and tips that apply to their condition and treatment. Healthcare tools and tracking mechanisms can help participants monitor their quality of life and the effects of the treatment on their health.

Invest in your public image to gain trust

Keeping your website, social media profiles and marketing materials up to date and effective might seem unimportant for clinical trial retention strategies, but it’s vital to building and maintaining trust with your audience. Participants taking part in your trial need to have ongoing access to news and information about the trial and easy ways to connect with their contact person.

In addition, the first action of anyone hearing about a loved one taking part in a trial is usually to check out the company or trial online to determine whether it’s legitimate and what they find establishes their level of support for the process. Three quarters (75%) of visitors judge a company’s credibility based on its website, according to research by Stanford University.

This makes strong public branding an important factor in clinical trial retention strategies. It’s invaluable for reassuring participants’ family members and friends that the trial they are taking part in is reputable, backed by a solid sponsor and supported by medical and scientific professionals.

Your web presence should include testimonials and personal stories from real people, which will also increase the confidence of visitors to the site.

The take-away

Recruiting participants in a trial is challenging, but keeping them engaged and helping them to find meaning in their lives through the trial will go a long way towards retaining them to the end of the trial. Without enough committed participants, it’s a much longer process to get new treatments tested and approved—one that costs both money and time that other people might not have. Discover more ideas for creative clinical trial retention strategies by downloading this white paper today.

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