Patient support in a virtual world

Communication is key to giving patients the support they need during a clinical trial. Demonstrating transparency while actively listening to patients’ own experiences will not only decrease dropout rates, but will also create a progressive culture in which patients are treated as valued partners in the ongoing quest for quality treatments.

Fortunately, we live in a world in which communication technology is constantly improving, in which digital devices are almost essential to our daily lives. Here’s our guide to harnessing the power of the internet and using it to improve patient access and streamline your support system.

Stay on the same page

Ensure that your participants are all well-informed as possible by creating a digital hub or portal, from which they can access information about their condition and the treatment being tested, as well as important information such as contacts and directs to the site of the study. Try including a custom-built app in your patient support program, which patients can access on the go via their smartphones, ensuring that everyone’s on the same page for the study.

SMS reminders are another way in which we can use technology to take the pressure off patients. By setting up automatic text reminders to be sent to patients a few hours before their appointments, you can cut down on time wasted by missed appointments, and help patients to go about their day-to-day lives feeling confident that they haven’t missed any important meetings.

A custom app can also set alarms and reminders to help patients administer their medication at the correct times, cutting out confounding variables and ensuring more valid results.

Talk to your patients

Using email and social media to communicate with patients doesn’t just get the message across more quickly - it also creates opportunities to communicate more closely and personally, demonstrating transparency to your patients.

Set up a weekly newsletter to be sent to all participants, including relevant material about the condition, the medication, and the researchers at work. This will help patients to feel like part of the bigger picture, and instill a sense of pride. Be sure to include details of how patients can contact you in each newsletter.

Let them talk to you

Sometimes patient support doesn’t have to be active - sometimes it just means taking time to actively listen to your patients’ queries and considerations. The internet has given us a world of ways to help patients freely express their opinions at any time.

Using a custom app, you can make questionnaires available so that your patients can regularly give quantitative and qualitative feedback on all aspects of the trial. Ensure that there are also a toll-free helpline and an email advice line open for patients who require more instant, personalised assistance.

Help patients support each other

The digital world also offers a plethora of ways for participants in a trial to stay connected with one another, offering advice and support throughout the procedure. Your custom app could include a messaging function, where participants can discretely chat about their condition and their trial experience.

Alternatively, a designated group on Facebook or hashtag on Twitter could be a positive way for patients to share multimedia information and inspiration. This will also be a fascinating source of information for you as a researcher, as participants may feel free to ‘tell it like it is’ in a way that they don’t via official lines of communication.

The future for patient centricity

The most exciting thing about the digital world is that it’s always moving forward, offering new opportunities for researchers and healthcare professionals to design patient-centric experiences. Wearable devices are already being tested for use in clinical trials, and will add yet another dimension to the ways that we measure patient progress while ensuring their comfort and confidence. By keeping an eye on new technology and platforms for communication, you can ensure that your patients feel supported throughout their trial experience.

How have you used technology to share information and support with patients? Let us know via our LinkedIn community.