By Don Lazas, MD
In the field of clinical research, one of the biggest hurdles can be finding eligible patients who are willing to actively participate in studies by taking time out of their lives over a period of months or years.
While research providers have been working for years to address this problem, one innovative model has shown significant promise in improving the patient retention rate of clinical research: integrating research into existing private practices and making patient participation a natural extension of the care process with their provider.
Participating in a clinical trial can have clear benefits for both a private practice and the patients they serve, setting an organization apart from its competitors and providing patients access to innovative therapies, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Here are four reasons why clinical research can be a natural fit for private practices:
- Clinical trials can strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.
A high level of trust between a doctor and patient has been proven to lead to positive long-term health outcomes. One study found that patients were “more satisfied with treatment” and reported “more beneficial health behaviors, less symptoms and higher quality of life” when they trusted their health care professional.
Most patients want to feel confident their doctor is at the forefront of new therapies and treatment options and are aware of the benefits of the latest drugs and technologies. To this end, clinical research can engender patient confidence and trust in the care they are receiving from their well-informed provider.
The relationship between doctors and patients is a special one, and being involved in a clinical trial can strengthen that bond. Patients can have an open, honest dialogue about care options with a trusted doctor who they have likely known for years, and also have the opportunity to receive treatments or therapies that are not available to the general public.
- Clinical research participation can enhance a practice’s professional reputation.
Participation in a clinical trial can enhance a practice's standing in the community and reputation amongst colleagues. Improving access to novel medical treatments can lead to more patient referrals and favorable word-of-mouth among community leaders. The successful completion of a trial also can open doors to additional collaborations with fellow centers of excellence around the country, further bolstering the practice’s reputation among healthcare leaders.
- A self-contained research workflow allows doctors to focus on patients.
Currently, only about 3% of our country’s physicians participate in clinical trials — perhaps partly due to unfounded concerns about the logistics of incorporating clinical research into their practices. Doctors considering adding a clinical trial option to their practice might hesitate out of concern that doing so might take valuable time away from their ability to care for patients.
However, clinical research can be seamlessly incorporated into the footprint of a private practice, with a separate, fully self-contained staff handling every aspect of studies, including patient screenings and ongoing checkup appointments. If a patient seems to be a good candidate for a study, the research study coordinator can coordinate certain pre-screening tests with the research team to determine the patient’s eligibility; doctors, meanwhile, can also recommend patients to the study coordinator based on their own clinical findings. This frictionless workflow streamlines research activities for the physician, allowing them to continue their focus on clinical care.
- Innovative technology accelerates patient recruitment
Besides retention, the other big challenge trial sponsors face in starting and completing a trial is patient recruitment. One study by Forte Research found that 85% of clinical trials fail to retain enough patients to reach completion. Research by CenterWatch estimates that it costs sponsors between $600,000 and $8 million each day when enrollment delays a trial.
However, by using AI-driven technology, modern clinical trial research platforms can seamlessly connect with patients’ electronic health records and providers’ schedules, helping to identify the most likely candidates for a study in advance of an upcoming scheduled appointment. The technology can also simplify the consent process and other administrative tasks while ensuring the doctor’s practice and trial processes remain HIPAA compliant. By using this technology and casting a wide net over multiple practice locations, it’s possible to recruit patients as much as three times faster, resulting in six to eight weeks’ faster enrollment.
A new path for clinical research
As the pace of development of new medications and therapies continues to accelerate, the need for a reliable model of clinical research is greater than ever. But incorporating clinical research into private medical practices has the potential to benefit all the parties involved —advancing novel therapies for patients while helping doctors build centers of excellence in their communities.
Don Lazas, MD, is the co-founder and chief medical officer for ObjectiveHealth, an integrated research and technology platform company based in Nashville.