Many people find booking plane tickets, arranging road transportation and overnight lodging overwhelming. Add into that mix the anxiety caused by serious health complications, and the critical need to travel long distances to take part in a potential life saving clinical trial, you have the recipe for a very complicated and stressful situation that could cause a person to choose not to participate in a clinical trial.
Clinical trial participants must also consider potentially steep up-front outlays for travel expenses and the potential for an extended timeframe until they are reimbursed for these expenses. The financial burden can cause high levels of anxiety to occur.
All of this comes on top of the complications of travel facing the entire world during the continuing COVID situation. Several airlines have made headlines for mass cancellations and lengthy delays over the past few months. Rideshare services like Lyft and Uber face a shortage of drivers, which has resulted in increased prices and longer wait times. Along with this is the constant worry brought on by travel in this time of a global pandemic, especially when someone is medically fragile.
Because of these issues, people who could most benefit by participating in a clinical trial often choose not to do so, even if it is their best chance for either treatment or a cure. Clinical trials can be challenged by a lack of diversity and these financial issues only exacerbate this issue, as only those people with the means to front the travel expenses may end up enlisting in the clinica trial.
However, stakeholders in the clinical trial industry can take necessary and simple steps that make travel easier for patients who wish to participate in studies conducted miles away, giving a more diverse population access to a potential life changing opportunity.
A PATIENT CENTRIC APPROACH
“Patient centricity” has become a popular phrase for sites that manage clinical trials, research organizations and drug companies researching the potential of a new drug. This means that the parties involved in conducting a clinical trial do their best to take a patient-first approach while managing a study.
As with any “centric” approach, information and feedback from participants are crucial ingredients in creating this approach.
Stakeholders must set expectations properly, explain the process, and discuss potential areas of frustrations and how they can be overcome. Surprises above and beyond what was shared initially will be met with scepticism and could hinder the willingness of an individual, or the family of an individual, to take part in a trial.
Many of the concerns outside of a clinical trial are also the main areas of concern within a trial. On top of up-front financial costs and slow-to-come reimbursements, participants (and their caregivers) must also consider childcare and eldercare, plus the distance between home and a clinical trial site, and how one will travel to a site. In fact, according to the 2021 CISCRP Perceptions & Insights Study, “having to travel to the study clinic” was the top reported factor cited by patients as making their clinical research study experience as disruptive.
A PROCESS THAT PROVES MOST SUCCESSFUL
Minimizing the travel concerns of both participants and easing the workload of already busy clinical trial investigator sites is an emerging priority for the industry to improve recruitment and retention.
Companies that support global clinical trials, especially those managing oncology and rare disease studies, have found success in offering a global travel concierge framework. Having such a partner to handle the reservation process takes a huge burden off the hands of clinical trial enrolees and investigator site staff. Additionally, due to the current COVID-19 environment, now is not the time to leave logistics to chance, or the last minute. Planning in advance for participant transportation and lodging and giving sites the tools needed to do so can help ensure success.
Also, a process with quick reimbursements and payments for any travel costs that takes this off the hands of the participants and sites removes financial burdens and worries – eliminating a huge obstacle to overcome for many who want to join a clinical trial and those who run them. This maximizes the broadest reach of finding possible participants, which can help alleviate the lack of diversity inherent in clinical trials.
REMOVE THE BARRIERS
In conclusion, all trials depend on a certain participation level, and removing as many barriers as possible is the both the most important priority and the biggest challenge.
Some people will always be hesitant to travel. But by considering the needs of the patient, having a clear chain of communications, and by alleviating as many obstacles as possible can have a deep impact on making enrolment and participation easier, and help lead to the ultimate purpose of a clinical trial, which is to develop cures and treatments for disease.