Awareness, Education and Support: Addressing the Key Barriers to Clinical Research Participation

The healthcare industry continues to evolve with scientific innovations, improvements in care, technological advancements, and more. One of the more promising avenues of advancement that can benefit both patients and providers is around clinical trials. However, despite the number of ongoing trials and enrollment opportunities, the reality is that few know about the availability of these trials or the promise they offer.

As an oncology nurse, working in clinical trials provides refreshing new promise and new hope. We all want to provide our patients with the one thing they crave most – more time. It is incredibly frustrating to see the promise of these trials not met quickly enough due to the challenges of identifying and enrolling enough participants.

Today, significantly fewer patients enroll in clinical trials than what is needed by those conducting the studies. On average, only 3% of oncology patients participate in a clinical trial, even though doing so can potentially add months or years to their lives. Despite scientific and technological progress, the success of clinical trials continues to be hindered by several barriers preventing patients, the primary stakeholders, from participating in the research process. These include:

Patients are often not provided a clinical trial option: Providers are typically overwhelmed with several stresses and, as a result, offer only the current standard of care to patients, potentially missing the opportunity to introduce a clinical trial option. Many of the activities required to find a trial for a patient are manual in nature and require a commitment of time that providers simply don’t have. Therefore, patients that might be eligible and appropriate for a trial and are not even aware of the
opportunity to be included. Patients are not educated about the process of a trial or how they can benefit: Low numbers of patients enroll in clinical trials compared to other treatment options. Many are simply unaware of how beneficial trials can be. Others are thwarted by misconceptions that clinical trials are a last-ditch effort, creating understandable pause.

Patients do not have adequate support throughout the trial.

Though trials offer opportunities to experience cutting-edge care, they can elicit hesitation. Exposure to something that has not yet been standardized or tested
extensively can be unnerving.

It is incumbent on healthcare providers and clinical researchers to be more aware of the barriers preventing greater participation in trials and work to overcome them. This can be accomplished by leveraging their knowledge of trials in progress, more explicitly highlighting the benefits of access to breakthrough, potentially life-saving treatments, and offering support and guidance to wary patients by providing answers to common questions.

Additionally, providers need to leverage new capabilities and technologies, including AI, that can match patients to trials with greater efficiency and accuracy. Doing so would minimize the time-consuming work required to sort through data and protocols and allow for more time to treat patients.

Clinical trials create promise and advancements for providers, researchers and, most importantly, patients. Only by remaining cognizant of the pervasive and real barriers at the patient level and engaging in meaningful conversations with patients can those barriers to enrollment be overcome.

Author: Michele McClory is a Clinical Implementation Specialist for BEKhealth. BEKhealth is a provider of software solutions for enhancing clinical research processes and improving the outcomes of clinical trials.

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