Recruiting in a pandemic
How lessons learned from COVID-19 will change the way we connect with patients
Erica Prowisor, Global Head, Recruitment and Retention at IQVIA
Jun 29, 2020

COVID-19 is now a permanent part of the healthcare landscape. Even after communities reopen, fears about safety and ongoing social distancing rules will make clinical trial recruiting more challenging.

In this environment, traditional recruiting strategies for clinical trials are no longer enough. Sponsors and sites need to rethink how they find, recruit and engage patients, leveraging all the face-to-face and virtual tools available to them, if they want to meet their goals.

Clinical trial recruitment lost valuable time in the early months of the pandemic. Now the industry is focused on getting research back on pace, moving trials forward and providing treatments to patients.

One positive outcome is the increased awareness of the value that clinical trials bring to healthcare innovation. Even before COVID-19, patients were becoming increasingly willing to participate in trials. During this pandemic, patient interest in trial participation has only increased.

Early engagement starts with data

For several years, the industry has focused heavily on patient engagement. Meeting with patient advocacy groups, gathering patient feedback on trial designs, and implementing patient-friendly technologies and data collection tools to ease the burden of participation are some of the efforts designed to make patients feel like a valued stakeholder in the research process.

Sponsors are also looking for new recruiting methods that help them rapidly identify and target the right patients, at the right times, for the right trials. The most important tool for creating this patient-centric approach to recruiting is data. Sites need real insights about patient risk factors, treatment experiences, motivations for participating in a trial, and preference for virtual or in-person treatment experiences.

Accurately assessing patients who are part of the site's practice versus those in the surrounding community is also key – as different approaches should be used depending on the source of the patient. Sites need access to real-world and clinical datasets from various sources to gain insights, advanced analytics tools to mine insights from the data and translate the results into custom messaging for every trial and patient.

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At IQVIA, our combination of global healthcare data sets and advanced technologies takes the guesswork out of this process. We use site-level data to create analytics-based enrollment forecasts, providing sites with a detailed analysis that can be adapted to meet each patient's needs, whether that engagement happens through a site, a physician, or directly with the individual. By conducting the analyses, we free sites up to spend more time talking with patients and addressing the physical and emotional barriers that can get in the way of their study participation – often before recruiting even begins.

Being able to connect with patients early in the trial process and adapt the outreach method based on patient preferences is critical to generating interest in the patient community, and ultimately, accelerating results.

Improving the speed and certainty of recruiting has been a long-time goal for pharma, and COVID-19 has only added to the motivation. The industry's rapid and adaptive response to this pandemic proves we have the agility to streamline recruiting and to make better use of data and technology to connect with patients. Now, we need to make these lessons learned a permanent part of every recruiting effort so we can improve the trial experience for patients while reducing the time and cost of delivering groundbreaking new therapies to market.

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