What Can Be Done to Decrease Clinical Trial Participation Barriers?

In order to have a successful clinical trial, dedicated participation is key. After spending time and money to enroll trial participants, it’s important to address barriers that these patients feel when participating in the study. By decreasing some of the participation barriers, it can help reduce drop out rates. There are four main barriers that can prevent patient participation in clinical trials.

Misconceptions: The clinical trial process can be full of a lot of questions. In order to have the best experience and encourage better participation, it’s necessary to address any concerns and preconceived notions as participants are being enrolled in the trial. Some popular concerns are the feeling of being a guinea pig, the anxiety of unknown side effects, how likely they will get a placebo, and the loss of autonomy. The earlier these concerns are addressed, the better. Let participants know that they aren’t alone in the fears and it’s necessary to communicate why each aspect of the trial is necessary and important. Reiterate benefits of participation, such as playing a more active role in health care, learning more about their disease or conditions, or gaining access to expert medical care.

Distrust: Misconceptions lead to distrust. It’s necessary to understand the history of distrust that surrounds the medical field and this is especially true for minority populations. When it comes to distrust, not all barriers are equally prevalent for each participant. It’s necessary to be transparent with the participants about actions because it will help explain the motives behind the study. There are ways to gain trust by breaking down communication barriers, such as technological literacy or language. If you are trying to reach a specific demographic, speak the language and communicate in ways that make sense for them.

Logistics: Those that design clinical trials should always have practicality in mind. It’s necessary to analyze achievability for the site staff, but the trial needs to be evaluated from the viewpoint of a participant. Trial participants are busy and the logistics of partaking in the trial can keep them from having the trial be a top priority. Some common logistical barriers include transportation, how often they are expected to be on site, the inability to take time off of work, and travel distance. If participants have children or need caregivers, it can be even more difficult. When designing a trial, consider what you are asking the participant to do. Understand barriers and accommodate if you can, such as extending on-site hours so that participants don’t have to take time off of work, or offer home visits.

Cost: Cost is a barrier because, in order to deal with logistic barriers, many participants spend their own money to participate. If participants are encountering delays in the payment process then this can cause them to feel like they aren’t valued and they won’t put in the effort. Just like accommodating needs with logistics, offer diverse payment preferences. If you give participants a choice on how they get paid, it will increase dedication.