Clinical Trials and Patient Travel in the Time of COVID-19
Heraclitus of Ephesus once said that “the only constant in life is change.” If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is precisely that. And, to those of us involved in the field of studies and clinical trials, it has also demonstrated that quick adaptation to change is a matter of survival.
Some may say that travelling to a study site was difficult even before the pandemic. Now that we are in the midst of it, it is time to think about how to navigate patient travel during this time and increase our patient retention rate, all while remaining compliant.
Let’s look at some critical patient travel steps you should consider implementing for your study during this time.
There’s something to be said about individualized service and accommodations. Personalize your travel services and cater to each study participant’s unique situation. Start by reviewing the COVID-19 policy. You want to make sure that patients and caregivers understand what is expected and what is required of masks and social distancing. This is also a way to gauge a patient’s comfort level and make any needed adjustments, while also making a statement that you have taken an active response to the pandemic.
Stay informed and up-to-date on the latest trends. States and countries have all had individual responses to the virus. Additionally, we have seen cases where one state might have low rates of infection one week and then be a hotspot the next; consider how New Zealand reported four new cases of the disease on August 11th, after 102 days without local infections. You might need to suspend international travel plans, and focus your efforts on recruiting patients local to those international sites. Everything taken into consideration, the best way to stay on top is by staying informed and openly communicating with other stakeholders.
Increase the intervals between on-site visits. Patients from out of state will likely have to quarantine themselves after each site visit. While we’re all faced with the harsh reality of the post-COVID-19 world, increasing the intervals between each visit may help alleviate any additional stress that could present a barrier to study participation during this time. While personalizing your services, patients will feel comforted that you are willing to accommodate their concerns, given that travel is currently a highly sensitive topic.
Sometimes engagement means re-engagement. With everything going on, it’s easy to lose patient engagement in your study. You may not hear from a patient in a while and they might seem MIA. This means you need to constantly follow up with them and confirm each visit. So, re-engage them when that does happen.
Get feedback from your patients. This is a new world we’re living in and patient feedback is extremely important. They are the ones enrolled in the study and actively travelling to the sites, so they may have some valid suggestions for improvement. They might bring something up you didn’t even realize or consider, and getting feedback from them is another way to involve them in the study and keeping them engaged, while at the same time getting the opportunity to improve your own services.
Offer additional service offerings to supplement travel services Sometimes it helps to give an additional incentive on top of travelling. We have seen some studies send PPE (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer) to patients' homes before they travel. We have also seen Wifi being reimbursed during flights and hotel stays, which traditionally isn’t covered by study-related expenses or reimbursements. Even complimentary snacks and entertainment options at the site. Any additional incentives to travelling patients would be helpful.
Travel programs are shown to increase study retention, reduce costs and improve the patient experience.
The ClinEdge Travel Program is tailored to meet your study’s needs while maintaining protocol compliance and high levels of patient satisfaction and retention.
Post by ClinEdge Staff