Living with COVID-19: Patient-centricity in clinical trials


Clinical trials have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we learn to live with this virus for the foreseeable future, we should prepare for an acceleration towards remote trials facilitated by digital solutions.

That was the key message coming from many clinical research organisations (CROs) as we celebrated International Clinical Trials Day last week. And while the benefits of remote clinical trials are well documented, to aim for success we must recognise the broad spectrum of participant needs and concerns, resist the adoption speed of one-size-fits-all solutions and ensure each study is tailored for its target population.

Even before the COVID pandemic, data on clinical trial recruitment painted a pessimistic picture. In one case, a report indicated that 20% of cancer clinical trials fail because of inadequate patient recruitment, whilst another found that 54% of participants who refuse to take part in a trial say it is because of the burden of the study.

To overcome this recruitment challenge, many CROs have been looking towards new and innovative ways to respond to the limitations of today’s world. Many are partnering with leading tech companies such as Microsoft, to bring clinical trials to the patient’s home and communities and implement remote engagement at scale to maintain and advance lifesaving clinical research.

However, while digital solutions can bring great benefits in terms of logistics, convenience and efficiency, they still do not address a more fundamental question: How do we create clinical trials that participants want to join and stay the course on?

A patient centric future

Now more than ever, it is important that patients are being involved in how we develop studies so that we can enhance the patient experience and increase retention time and trial value. By ensuring that the study design is tailored to the reality of everyday life for participants, we can help ensure that studies  recruit and complete on time, without the loss of too many participants along the way.

It is well documented that many people with chronic heart failure experience depression or anxiety, so consideration of this reality should be explored with patients when designing a clinical trial in this area. By keeping evidence-based social practices firmly in sight, we can provide the holistic support that may prove vital to helping participants remain in the study.

Other factors critical to establishing workable patient-centric strategies relate to the behaviour of patient interactions. There is a need for pharma and other life science organisations to ensure consistent, transparent, and authentic interactions with patients. This means a personalised approach, rather than just specific targeted touch points,  that are only perceived to be valuable to the company involved.

In this respect, there is a need for having a deep understanding of the patient journey, but also understanding the characteristics of different patient segments and how they are likely to behave, think and feel within that journey.

Patient centricity is an evolving space, and new ways of putting patients at the heart of the study continue to emerge as the pharmaceutical industry strives to understand the complexity of the patient journey. There is more work to be done, but an ever-increasing focus on patient-centricity from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency is helping to accelerate change.

Digital solutions will certainly play an important role in the future of clinical trials, but a bespoke approach grounded in a deep understanding of the patient world will be key to ensuring they are a success.

At Aurora we are experienced in helping our clients to involve patients in the development of recruitment strategies for their clinical studies via our unique partnership with the patient intelligence panel, PIP Health.

Get in touch

If you want to know more about how to manage patient collaboration when movement is restricted, please do get in touch with our Patient Involvement team. You can email us at

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