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How are patient insights applied to clinical trials?

Behind every patient there is a story, an experience that’s shaped them, or a list of requirements that they’re looking for when it comes to their own healthcare. And it’s our responsibility to hear the patient voice and ensure we take the relevant actions.

What are patient insights?

If we take a look at the definition of “insight” – the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something – patient insights are exactly that. It’s gaining an in-depth understanding of each patient and their experience, by listening to their needs and gathering evidence and information to understand what is influencing their healthcare journey and decision-making process.

By gaining patient insights, you can capture their experiences, perspectives, needs, and priorities. Some examples include:

  • The symptoms of their condition
  • The impact of the condition on their quality of life
  • Their experience with previous treatments
  • Outcomes that are important to them

Then, by turning those insights into relevant actions, you can aim to make the patient experience in clinical trials the best it can be.

Why should we gain patient insights?

In other industries outside of healthcare, gaining consumer insights is an essential part of the business and marketing strategy to understand what the target audience wants, and in turn create a product that will benefit them. For example, how are you going to sell a product to your target audience, if the product isn’t meeting their needs? The key is to get to know the customer first and build the product and strategy around that. To do this, communication is essential: gaining feedback through questionnaires, speaking to the customers directly, and communicating with them across the channels they prefer, for example, phone, email, post, or social media.

So, why should it be different for the healthcare industry? The phrase “nothing about us, without us” is often used when it comes to patient-centricity. Traditionally, the pharma industry has designed clinical trials without gaining patient insights and understanding their preferences. This has contributed to low patient recruitment, high patient dropouts and costly delays in the clinical trial process.

Now, more discussions are taking place about involving patients and gaining their insights throughout different stages of the clinical trial process, to ensure the clinical trial is relevant to them, boost recruitment and retention, and increase the likelihood of improving health outcomes.

Many stakeholders in the pharma industry are already finding ways to apply patient insights in their recruitment and retention strategies.

How are patient insights being applied in the clinical trial process?

Patient insights should be gathered and used from the very beginning of the clinical trial process, right to the very end. Examples of how patient insights can be applied throughout the clinical trial process include:

Protocol design

Incorporating patient insights earlier in the clinical trial design process, during the design of the study protocol. This can help to ensure the clinical trial is investigating outcomes that are relevant to the patient and necessary changes can be made earlier, to avoid complications further down the line.

Clinical trial materials

Co-designing clinical trial materials with patients to ensure they include the information that patients need, while being engaging and easy to understand. Pharma companies are increasingly getting patients involved from designing patient websites, to the design of the study protocol. And by gaining their insights and taking feedback, they’re able to make changes to avoid potential complications further down the line.

Communication preferences

Gaining feedback from your patients in terms of how they would like to receive information or prefer to be reached. With technology on the rise, some patients may still prefer to have paper materials, too.

Diversity and inclusion

Hearing from the intended treatment population is extremely important when it comes to planning the clinical trial. For example, Black African and Latinx individuals are more adversely affected by sickle cell disease, so it’s important to reach out to these diverse groups and gain their insights, to inform the protocol design and clinical trial materials, and to ensure your clinical trial is truly representing those who will eventually receive the study drug.

Travel requirements

Understanding how your patients will travel to and from the clinical trial site, asking for their input on what would be helpful for them and putting measures in place to make the experience easier for them. Could the medication be delivered to their home or could transport be arranged for your patients?

These are just a few examples of how patient insights can be applied in trial process. Whether it’s for drug development or a medical device clinical trial, patient insights should be gathered at every stage of the clinical trial process, to ensure that the clinical trial continues to meet your patients’ needs and expectations, and ultimately improve health outcomes.

This blog was first published here:

3rd November 2020



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