How to Improve Patient Experience in DCTs

September 24, 2021

When the pandemic hit, patient access fell by 80%, causing the clinical trial industry to adapt quickly with virtual, local clinics and in-home visits. Many of the changes brought on by decentralized clinical trials (DCTs) improved the patient experience, such as greater control, convenience, and time-saving.

However, the expansion of DCTs has not been without challenges, and ensuring a positive patient experience becomes even more critical with DCTs. In part two of our DCT blog series, we share insight from research studies and our recent webinar on achieving DCT success.

Offer Greater Optionality

Madeline Geday, ERT Senior Director and Head of Patient Engagement, says it’s important to provide participants with options. For example, if a patient isn’t comfortable with a handheld device, alternative options like accessing paperwork or trial visits in person should be offered.

“DCTs as a whole are about flexibility and being able to meet the patients where they are,” said Geday. “That’s what we’re driving toward is being able to give patients the flexibility and the option to conduct those clinical trials where they are.”

For others, having support in person may be preferred. Juliet Hulse, Senior Director of Global Research, Nurse Strategy and Patient Advocacy at Illingworth Research Group, agreed, speaking on optionality from a site perspective.

“I think the ability to have a nurse onsite with patients does add some comfort to both patients and sponsors,” said Hulse, adding that utilizing a home health nurse to guide patients along is a good solution for any hesitation with DCTs.

Use Simple & Supportive Technology

While many patients embrace telehealth, technology can be a barrier for others less familiar with these innovations. In virtual trials, patients use devices provided to them (which they most likely have no prior experience with) or their current devices in new or unfamiliar ways – some struggle to operate devices correctly, which can lead to frustration.

Gregory Tuyteleers, Global Lead Decentralized Clinical Trials at Janssen, says it’s important to consider various aspects when designing tech-heavy trials. He recommends participants use one device to view their visit schedules, access a help desk, and log their data.
“These integrated platforms are most successful for patients,” said Tuyteleers. “It should become a one-stop-shop.”

Patients will also benefit from interactive training and support to ensure they use unfamiliar devices correctly in the home. Asking specific questions of any technology partner, such as whether they have training materials or a 24/7 global support hotline, is essential to driving DCTs.

Provide Remote Support For Positive Patient Experience

Maintaining exceptional patient experience from afar can be challenging. While DCTs have many benefits, some might find a lack of in-person experience threatens the personal aspect of the doctor-patient relationship.

“You still want to have that emotional contact with the patients,” said Hulse, adding that patients sometimes feel more comfortable working with “a nurse or somebody that they can still have that support and emotional attachment with.”
Study set-up and training support can prepare patients for at-home activities, such as registration and triaging issues, which often occur outside regular business hours.

“We’re trying to provide guidance and get the support into the home,” said Geday. “We want to make sure that when we are implementing DCTs, we’re not leaving patients high and instead ensuring they are comfortable to be able to conduct the trial on their own.”