Clinical trials often get a bad rap, but the reality is that clinical research is important and should be viewed as favorable. The challenge is getting potential participants, and sometimes even healthcare providers (HCPs), to think differently about clinical trials through clinical research awareness.
Trials help researchers and physicians understand not only how to treat or diagnose a certain disease, but also how to help prevent it.
In the field of oncology, clinical research is particularly important. Many products are currently under development, but physicians often miss the opportunity to discuss clinical research trials as a viable treatment option. Some cancers thought to be untreatable have responded to recent therapeutic advances resulting from clinical research. This blog post looks at strategies for generating clinical research awareness that targets both physicians and cancer patients.
The importance of clinical research and patient participation
The value of clinical research lies in its potential to improve patient health, reduce the burdens of illness and disability, and even extend people’s lives. Clinical trials promote an innovative approach to treatment and reveal insights into the safety and effectiveness of medical therapies. And only through clinical trial participation—both by healthy and unwell participants—can true breakthroughs in advanced medicine be possible.
Participants must volunteer for a clinical trial; therefore, many ethical considerations should be central in the enrollment of patients. This means care should be taken to promote clinical research awareness, ie, how it can benefit a population’s health, and the risks that are involved, rather than encouraging individual participation. The biggest reason participants enroll in a clinical trial is that they have searched for information on different treatment options for their condition. According to various studies, the source of this information is more often than not the internet or general media.
The role of healthcare providers in raising awareness
Knowing that many patients seek information on their own, there is room for HCPs to increase their role in raising awareness about clinical research options. Physicians’ promoting awareness is invaluable to existing or early clinical trials. These are often trials on which information is not yet publicly available, not easy to find on the web, or not published in journals. HCPs should ideally discuss all treatment options with their patients, including clinical trial participation.
Pharma companies can generate physician awareness by offering resources and information on a specific clinical trial, or by initiating a dialogue with support of their stakeholders or key opinion leaders (KOLs). By communicating the benefits afforded by clinical research, physicians can increase patient participation in trials, leading to earlier access to new, innovative medications and therapies.
Clinical research awareness for cancer treatments
The study of cancer is widespread, and the more that is understood about the disease, the greater the potential for finding effective therapies. A large number of oncology products are currently under development, and there are several resources for finding clinical trials targeting cancer patients. Accordingly, awareness begins with the pharma companies who share their clinical research with KOLs and stakeholders, who in turn pass information along to their physician networks.
New clinical research in the field of oncology often seeks to implement early detection and intervention methods, meaning cancer treatments can be less invasive and more innovative. However, for these therapies to be established as legitimate treatment options, clinical trials must be performed during earlier stages of the disease. While physicians have a responsibility to educate their patients on different treatment options, pharma companies can engage their HCP networks about innovative new research areas.
Ways to generate awareness with targeted physicians
One approach to improving awareness of the benefits of clinical research is to invite physicians to be part of an institutional review board or to become a research advisory committee member overseeing clinical trials. Use speaking engagements to discuss various cancer topics, including clinical trials. By sharing the findings from other clinical trials with your network of HCPs, you can stimulate enthusiasm and generate awareness of potential new treatments in order to attract participants. Findings from other relevant clinical trials should include a testimonial section that shares patient experiences.
Ways to generate awareness targeting a patient community
As mentioned, clinical research awareness begins with providing doctors the right information and a platform to discuss clinical trial options that may be appropriate for their patients. That said, most research targets and tests a specific community or population. In this regard, physicians are generally the front line in helping to find appropriate volunteers to participate in a clinical trial.
Oncology patients are continually interested in learning about new treatment options, and physicians can help improve awareness of these alternatives among patients. While clinical trials generally rely on the participation of a local population, health fairs, educational visits to clinics and health centers, local media, or online forums can also help foster awareness. Patients who learn about new treatment options through these channels or through their HCPs demonstrate an increased awareness of the opportunity to participate in a relevant clinical trial.
Finally, it’s important not to overlook traditionally underserved medical populations, including racial and ethnic minorities. Partnering with HCPs who work with underserved communities is a great way to pass along information regarding the benefits of clinical trials while helping a medically neglected patient population gain access to cancer prevention, screening, and treatments.
In summary, the best way to generate clinical research awareness is to educate the appropriate populations and provide ample resources that support the research objectives. To improve clinical trial awareness, pharma companies should educate opinion leaders, stakeholders, and primary caregivers about the quality of care that can be provided through clinical trials. Appropriate resource materials should be made accessible and satisfy patient, provider, and researcher needs.