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For trials without tribulations, we must improve patient experience

Clinical trials are broken and only patients can help us fix them - if we let them

Specialist patient recruitment agency Havas Lynx Faze, from the leading global healthcare communications agency Havas Lynx Group, has spent months speaking to patients and leaders across the pharmaceutical industry to better understand what’s working – and what’s not – in clinical trials.

The result of this consultation is Havas Lynx Group’s latest white paper ‘Patient Centricity on Trial’. Faze’s Mark Evans explains the simple but transformative insight that runs through the white paper.

Charles Darwin famously talked about survival of the fittest. The idea that those that have better adapted to their environment are more likely to succeed than those who don’t.

The environment for clinical trials is unrecognisable from the turn of the century.

Just looking at the numbers is staggering – over 13,000% more trials were registered in 2018 than in the year 2000. And this massive growth in competition for clinical trials has coincided with the advent of the web and the digital age, which have forever changed the rules of engagement.

Yet the well-worn statistics on the dire state of clinical trials are ample evidence that we’ve failed to evolve with this changing environment. Almost half of clinical trials (46%) fail due to poor recruitment; 50% of sites enrol one or no study participants; 80% of trials are delayed by at least one month… The result? Pharma is haemorrhaging money and patients aren’t seeing the benefits they need.

The old clinical trial model was well adapted to the blockbuster era of drug discovery and delivery. But the simpler ‘find patients, test drug’ era has well and truly passed.

So we must adapt to survive. And yes – you’ve guessed it – that means involving patients.

Mark Evans presents

Beyond the buzzwords

True evolution, however, doesn’t come from merely paying lip service to ‘patient-centricity’ and ‘co-production’, or whatever preferred buzzword is doing the rounds. To survive and stand out from the ever-expanding crowd, we need to embed an understanding of patient experience into the very DNA of our businesses.

Our latest white paper is an exploration of how some of the world’s most innovative companies are bringing the patient experience front and centre in clinical trials, and reaping the benefits of doing so.

From the way they speak to and seek out patients in recruitment ads, to protocol design and end-of-trial communications, we show that those who are taking the time to understand and respond to a patient’s experience at every clinical trial touchpoint are those who are building successful clinical trials.

Who wants five blood tests when they could have two, for instance? This kind of simple, practical question can be the difference between success and failure of a clinical trial, and is usually only raised by patients.

Tailored experiences

We’ve heard individual patient stories of why one particular trial experience was better than another, and we’ve explored case studies and evidence of how the patient voice has helped companies and clinical trials succeed where others have failed.

Time and again we’ve seen that genuinely successful patient-centricity is fundamentally about understanding the everyday experiences that people (not abstracted ‘patients’) have – and the practicalities they face – and better tailoring trials as a result of that understanding.

Look beyond the confines of the pharmaceutical industry to consumer-land and you’ll soon find that, actually, a focus on experience isn’t new news. It’s just that pharma is late to the party.

The Apples, the Amazons, the Nikes of the world have long ago adapted their businesses to centring around and optimising customer experience. In doing so, they’ve not only succeeded where others have failed, but they’ve changed expectations of consumers. Our patients live in the world of Amazon and Nike. They are consumers too, albeit with often life-changing conditions.

Experience mindset

We compete not simply with other clinical trials, but the world of distraction that is modern life. The average person, for instance, is thought to see as many as 3,000 advertising messages a day across all media.

The ‘product’ we’re selling isn’t as trivial as an iPad or new trainers – it’s the very life-blood of modern medicine – yet if we continue to use the tools of old and fail to adapt, we’re condemned to continue a trajectory of poor recruitment and retention, and of rising costs.

Survival comes from adaptation. In clinical trials, that means adapting our mindset, our trials, our very businesses to look at patients as our ultimate customer, and improving their experience at every step.

Clinical trials are broken and only patients can help us fix them – if we let them.

To find out more, sign up to read our white paper and supporting insights at:

Article by
Mark Evans

8th July 2019

Article by
Mark Evans

8th July 2019


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