The clinical trial landscape saw a lot of changes in 2021, from decentralized clinical trial adoption to a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion. But what’s in store for 2022? We asked our industry experts to weigh in with their predictions.
Mike Johnson, Director, RSG Services
What major trend do you anticipate for patient travel in 2022?
While we’ve seen demand for patient travel increase exponentially over the past few years, I expect that in 2022 we’ll see a stronger emphasis on engaging concierge experts who embrace a patient-centric approach to clinical trial travel and who are entirely dedicated to supporting the needs of patients and site staff.
As I am in constant contact with site staff, I hear first-hand their concerns, pain points, and experiences working with travel vendors. While most are enthusiastic about being relieved of booking travel, they are emphatic about ensuring that their patients are fully supported by knowledgeable experts. While providing a flight, ride, or hotel accommodation can seem like an easy task on the surface, when you dig deep you realize it’s an ever-changing study landscape that requires flexibility, responsiveness, and experience to manage frequent changes. I think demand for experts who have the knowledge—not only as it relates to arranging a travel itinerary, but to ensuring the itinerary supports patient health, safety, and compliance—will increase in 2022.
I also think the value concierge experts create by establishing supportive relationships with site staff will relieve some of the added burden we will see with hybrid clinical trials.
Justin Jones, Director, Media
What media trend(s) do you anticipate for 2022?
The battle over online privacy, particularly as it relates to our personal health, may lead to significant shifts in the way clinical trial marketing is conducted in 2022 and beyond. What’s more, it’s being implemented by the two biggest players in tech: Facebook and Google. Last November, Facebook announced that it will begin removing ad-targeting features for “sensitive” topics such as clinical trial recruitment. Previously, clinical trial marketers could choose to serve ads to Facebook users who had indicated interest in health-related conditions (e.g., delivering a breast cancer study advertisement to someone who expressed interest in “breast cancer awareness”). The inability to hyper-target those who are most likely to be interested in these types of healthcare options will require clinical trial marketers to get more creative in their targeting approaches.
The other major challenge faced by clinical trial marketers comes from Google, which announced that, beginning in 2023, it will join Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla in eliminating the ability to track users via third-party cookies. For years, these companies have been using third-party cookies to track website visitors in order to collect and sell data that assists marketers in targeting ads to the right audiences. This will place increased reliance on reaching out to potential study participants through platforms where people have voluntarily given their permission to be notified about health-related information such as clinical trials.
While there remain many unknowns surrounding the ultimate effects of Facebook’s and Google’s new policies, clinical trial marketers can anticipate the need to rethink their current approaches to advertising, such as adjusting historical performance expectations, exploring new creative ways to generate impressions, and optimizing the referral conversion experience to maximize return on investment.
Danielle Frate, Creative Director, Strategic Services
What trend do you anticipate for 2022 that will impact the clinical trial patient experience?
There will be continued focus on framing the clinical trial design from the patient perspective.
The topic of patient choice—and how to engage with a clinical trial based on individual needs and preferences as healthcare consumers—has been at the top of everyone’s mind. This past year we saw first-hand the importance of patient choice with our Study Voices survey. We saw the emergence of a clear message that patients want choice in their healthcare experience. By incorporating choice into recruitment and engagement strategies, clinical trial sponsors can more effectively reach patients where they are in their lives with services and solutions that respond to individual needs and preferences.
I expect to see more enrollment and engagement solutions in 2022 that offer patients convenience, access, and choice—solutions customized to meet patients where they are.
Dena Raffa, Director, Tech Experience
Where do you see the industry going in 2022 in terms of tech innovation?
Continuing with the trend we’ve seen in 2021, decentralized clinical trials will reach new heights in 2022. With the current climate impacted by the COVID pandemic, there’s no doubt that telehealth will remain as a mainstay in the clinical trial industry. Telehealth appointments are desirable and patient-centric as they decrease the number of onsite visits, saving time, money, and energy for the patient. This encourages patient retention and even compliance. Other digital components like eConsent, eDiaries, and web-based questionnaires will also have a larger presence within site and patient portals. A decentralized, digital approach is not only expected to streamline patient recruitment and participation, but will also positively impact data collection.
Along with digital solutions, decentralized trials will also use nontechnology methods like home health appointments and medication delivery. These approaches bring the care directly to the patient. The human touch element is still important in terms of patient engagement and is something not to be ignored during the decentralized trial movement.
Aaron Fleishman, Director, Market Development
What do you think will be important for study sponsors to consider for 2022 in terms of enrollment and engagement?
Certainly, one of the driving topics to come out of 2021 is how we can make clinical trials more accessible to patients. Whether it be from race, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, or the like, as an industry we want to try to make clinical trial participation more accessible. It will be interesting to see how the industry tackles this. It seems as though the easy answer is simply to use technology and make clinical trials virtual or decentralized. But does that leave out the audiences who aren’t as tech-savvy, or who don’t have access to high-speed internet, or who want personal interactions with physicians?
I don’t think that a decentralized clinical trial ultimately solves access. Rather, a hybrid model that includes a more high-tech and high-touch approach may be more suitable. The roadblock there is the investment that this requires both from a financial perspective and a time/strategy perspective.
So this is what I’m most interested in seeing and being part of as we embrace 2022: how we can create hybrid models to enhance the patient experience in clinical trials to increase access for all.
BBK will be on top of emerging trends in 2022. Stay informed through our blog, Pharma15 Live! series, Study Voices surveys, MythBusters initiatives, and more!