As we strive at BBK to re-concept services and strategies that help sponsors retain the patients they enroll, we find ourselves discussing the places we routinely visit, and what keeps us coming back. For me this always gets me talking about food. There’s a sandwich shop in Jamaica Plain, my neighborhood in Boston, which I hit almost weekly despite pretty intense local culinary competition: El Oriental de Cuba, home of the best Cuban sandwich in Boston (yes, I know Chez Henri’s is also amazing, but I would argue a different sort of beast).
Let me pause right now and say that I know dining is not an accurate comparison to clinical study participation. However, the elements that keep me coming back are worth consideration.
At first glance the enticements are obvious: the sandwich is unmatched, the perfect proportion of roast pork and sliced ham, crisp veggies, generous sauces (add Matouk’s if you are of true grit), and toasty bread. But if you stand back and watch the interaction of the patrons with the staff you will be quick to notice another level. The staff is always friendly, and no matter how busy they are, they treat you like their top priority. The restaurant has a genuine feeling of authenticity, is consistently fast and clean, and accepts cash or credit. And every once in a while, they toss in a free flan. It’s always a great customer experience.
So as we consider what makes sense for patient retention, we come up with strategies that express many of the same attributes such as, finding simple ways to make patients feel empowered, fostering personal connections, making life easier, and every once in a while providing a pleasant surprise.
This kind of thinking has led BBK to develop what have become proven patient retention solutions. Using site staff feedback as a guide, here are our top five strategies for successful patient retention:
- Provide materials that simplify complicated aspects of your trial: think visit-by-visit or injection guides. Providing these materials on paper is great, and pairing paper with electronic versions optimized for mobile devices is even better.
- Deploy automated reminder programs, which leverage e-mail and text messages, enabling patients and sites to tailor the type and frequency of communications they receive. By giving participants control, you will see higher levels of participation.
- Eliminate the inconveniences associated with travel reimbursement by tying payments to IVRS data. The Ready. Set. Go. Global Reimbursement Card program we launched earlier this year leverages reloadable VISA® debit cards, and was designed to require little personal information to issue it to a patient (no social security number), and requires no action by site staff to trigger payments after the initial sign up.
- Provide door-to-door service to those who need it. Our Ready. Set. Go. Ride transportation programs can remove the burden of study transportation from caregivers and is especially useful to those with mobility or behavioral health issues. We provide consistent drivers for each patient who are trained to understand the details of study participation and who are sensitive to their needs.
- Thoughtful care items can also soothe symptoms or anticipated side effects. Whether a bag, a water bottle, or some similar item, the real value of these is in the personal interactions they enable.
Looking closely at your study audience and putting that little extra thought into retention items can make an enormous difference. Like picking up your takeout order and discovering that along with your sandwich, someone snuck some free flan in the bag.
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