Longboat has blogged before about the challenges of recruiting a diverse mix of clinical trial participants, but how do you develop an effective patient engagement strategy that works? Especially taking into account the challenge that your patient population may include age ranges as diverse as 18-75 year-olds in the same trial? According to a report in Marketing Week, understanding the behaviors and attitudes of your target audience is more important than their demographic. So what does that mean for you when you are trying to maximize engagement in your trial within the confines of budget limitations and a heavily regulated landscape for patient-facing tools and communications?
1. Listen to the patient voice and be honest about any limitations the study team are working with
“Listening to patients” and “patient centricity” are buzzwords used in the agenda of every clinical trial conference for miles around, but how often are these elements really in-built in clinical trial design? Conducting patient focus groups can help you understand some of the prevailing perceptions.
Making sure to start a dialogue with patients early will help you to understand the range of primary motivators and tailor your content and communication plans to address their needs, interests, and preferences as the trial progresses. Patient advocacy groups can be a valuable source of assistance and help you to really understand the“patient voice” and what patients need.
However, a realistic balance needs to be struck here to explain the proposed tools and engagement strategy in light of the limitations the study team are working within. Tell patients what you are thinking about doing, and if things come up that aren’t possible, explain why. By doing this, you can really understand the patient’s attitude towards the proposed tools, communication, and engagement strategy, as well as the real motivators for patients on the trial.
2. Find out how your patients want to be engaged
Using printed resources as your primary communication channel is unlikely to engage the social-media-savvy millennials. It’s crucial to consider all the different channels your patients are engaging with, so you can make sure your engagement strategy and content delivers information in a way your patients want to receive it.
3. Keep it simple
More than half of people in the UK don’t understand the text and/or numerical health information given to them, and this is mirrored in other industrialized countries. No matter which demographic you are speaking to, your content must be pitched at a level everyone can easily understand.
It’s all too easy for scientific, medical, and regulatory terminology to creep into the patient-facing documents! That might be perfect for a lawyer but not so effective for a patient who is just trying to get through the day and manage their condition. To deal with this, follow the widely held convention of pitching your content at a level suitable for a 10-year-old reader. This does not mean treating all your patients like 10 year olds, but means using clear and simple language in a way that is helpful and not condescending. To ensure that it’s widely understood (and wherever possible), you should test it out prior to roll-out in your trial.
Infographics, animations and audiovisual representations of medical and scientific concepts are much more engaging for your audience and far more likely to be widely understood. Using tools that explain concepts visually in a step-by-step manner also allows the reader to digest each piece of information at their own pace, rather than being overwhelmed by lengthy and complicated documents.
4. Find the common ground
Make sure that you acknowledge the common experience that patients on your trial may share to ensure that you engender a sense of team. The content you are distributing to patients as part of your engagement needs to mean something to people. It could be thought-provoking and give people a sense of the impact of the trial, reveal feedback shared by other patients also taking part in the clinical trial journey, or it might have a more personal meaning, such as the importance of following the information for their well-being.
5. Make the message empowering
Think about how you feel when you read a great article or watch a documentary that teaches you something new. Now consider how you can make clinical trial information more empowering for your patients, so that they can participate in and benefit from your study to the fullest. Giving up time to take part in a clinical study is often a huge sacrifice on behalf of the patient, which results in massive leaps forward in treatments for future patients following behind them with the same condition. Never be shy about empowering patients and reminding them of the important part they are playing in creating new treatments.