Healthcare institutes rely on their patients’ engagement to optimize care delivery. Patient engagement is the relationship between patients and clinical/healthcare professionals (HCPs). It involves clinical research organizations (CRO) /healthcare institutions’ efforts to ensure patients or their representatives are well-informed about the trial/treatment. On the patients’ end, it allows them to gain a clear understanding of the care they are provided thus helping them adhere to the clinical regime. However, patients do not always follow the physician’s instructions due to lack of engagement. This not only prolongs the trial and/or treatment duration but also incurs an excessive cost to the patients or trial sponsors in case of drug trials.
Healthcare institutions and clinical trial sponsors are making efforts to reimagine patient engagement in wake of the stress Covid-19 has put on the system across the world. In this blog, we illustrate some of the best practices that can accelerate the stakeholders’ efforts and engage all parties involved optimally while minimizing the burden on the system.
Educating patients/trial subjects: The better the patient’s awareness about the treatment/trial, the more chances of them feeling involved thus keeping them engaged with the process. Patients need to understand the motive for adhering to the regime frequency and check in for periodic testing to reevaluate the qualitative and quantitative impact of treatment, all of which will allows physicians to adjust the dosage/frequency or alter the treatment altogether if necessary.
Make the digital shift: CROs and HCPs often include extensive educational material about the trial/treatment in the consent form for patients to read. However, the mode and manner of the presentation matter. Patients will not be interested in reading long pieces of content. Therefore, it is advisable to switch to visual media (images, videos, online forms) that are simple and effective to improve engagement.
Research also suggests that switching to electronic consent forms which can accommodate training material needs and digitalized communication modes will improve the patient interest in reaching back frequently. More patients have access to a mobile phone/laptop today which can be used to communicate as well as educate. They can also be used to keep patients informed about version changes in material and create alerts to know the same and send automated medication and consultation reminders.
Leverage IoT/telemedicine applications to effectively monitor patient health: Traditionally, patients are required to regularly visit healthcare facilities to test their vitals and understand the effect of treatment. In trials/treatments involving terminal diseases, it is not easy for patients to commute as required by the CROs/HCPs and patients residing in remote areas often discontinue treatments.
Switching to IoT-based wearables with bio-sensors will allow HCPs to remotely monitor patient essentials and get continuous bio feedback. Moving to digital platforms will allow sponsors to engage with far-off laboratories within patients’ reach that can test for complex vitals that cannot be measured using wearable devices. Patients and doctors can use telemedicine applications to consult and provide necessary advice and adjust the treatment/trial based on patients’ response to current treatment. The same can be extended to supply chains to deliver customized dosages of drug products all of which can be monitored from one centralized location while decentralizing the dependency on location. Patients will experience the ease of access to medicine in trials as well as in healthcare facilities.
Ensure compliance with privacy regulations to build patient trust: Health authorities update patient safety data regulations from time to time and this affects data policies in trials and advanced treatments. Data privacy and integrity policies such as HIPAA, HL7 standards and so on must be strictly enforced across all departments. Simultaneously, patient data must be guarded against leaks and access to it must be controlled. Inform your patients about these policies and offer evidence of compliance with them. This improves patients’ confidence that their data and privacy are protected minimizing any resistance from their side and opening channels for transparent communication.
Healthcare institutions and clinical sponsors must build digital platforms that are secure, compliant and flexible to enforce these best practices and train personnel to use the electronic versions of forms, documentation tools and communication channels. They must also create next practices to scale up and accommodate growing data and change management. Apart from building better engagement, these changes will decrease instances of non-compliance that can lead to costly lawsuits and receive rejection from authorities in cases of drug development.
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