Digital and the Human Element (Building Patient Trust and Comfort)

There are several levels at which a patient might come in contact with a clinical trial engagement platform, and they will have lots of questions about how clinical trials work such as — will I get a placebo, will my doctor still be involved in my treatment, will this cost me anything? They may also have more fundamental, emotional needs best handled by providing the ability to create a human connection.

The call center is an impactful way -

  • 1. To help patients understand clinical trials and
  • 2. To listen to patients and build trust

Many call centers use techniques to steer customers away from actually calling, making connection to a human to be a last-resort when self-service is not adequate. For clinical trial support, it’s critical to reverse that concept, making it easy to email or call a representative.

A patient’s potential first interaction with a sponsor should be on their terms and address their needs. A successful call center for engaging patients in clinical trials should be staffed with dedicated professionals who are trained to deliver high- quality customer service to ensure that every interaction is positive. These representatives are encouraged to spend as much time as necessary speaking to a patient, answering their questions about clinical trials, but also providing a sympathetic ear. Many callers have heartrending stories, as well as specific questions about participation. It’s important to not lose sight of the human experience they are going through.

Calls may range from questions about specific study sites, inclusion or exclusion criteria, and concerns about travel. Figure 9-3 illustrates a break-down of the issues often encountered by call centers as prospects call in.

Connecting Patients with Each Other

Taking part in a clinical trial can be a daunting experience. There is value in connecting patients who are starting their clinical trial journey to others who may have gone through a clinical trial before. With the proper mindset and a patient-first approach, sponsors can enhance the overall level of engagement and education, and improve the patient experience. Moderated online clinical trial communities and disease communities enable patients to find others who might be having the same experiences as them. They also help empower patients to become advocates of clinical trials by helping others.

Other Important Patient Services

Sponsors need flexibility in selecting capabilities that are right for the patients that visit their online platforms. Key features to enhance patient engagement and recruitment are depicted in Figures 9-3 and 9-4. Below are additional features and resources to enhance patient experience and education.

Smart Search: Pre-populating a list of values as the user begins to type in the clinical trial search field.

Email alerts: Setting up notifications on their disease or a specific trial: 92% of patients are interested in registering their contact information so they can be informed when a clinical trial becomes available that is appropriate for them.3

Glossary of Terms: Displaying patient friendly definitions of important medical terms.

Frequently Asked Questions: Searchable resources by role: Patient, Caregiver, Parent and HCPs, to help the visitor quickly answer questions they may have.

Call Center Customer Interactions

Figure 9.3 Call Center Customer Interactions: January 2020 73% Contact Resolution in one Interaction.

Note: Accumulative metric since August 2018.

CICRIP Perception and Insights Study

Figure 9.4 2019 CICRIP Perception and Insights Study: Sample Size = 12,451

Explaining Clinical Trials: Helping patients learn how clinical trials work, what to expect, and why volunteers participate are a few examples.

Support Organizations: Linking to disease and caregiver support organizations, as well as advocacy groups and health organizations.

Patient Stories: Learning about other patients who have their disease and/or have experiences with clinical trials.

Ease of Management

A critical factor of running the technology ecosystem around a patient engagement platform was assuring that the right infrastructure was in place to manage it. Global expansion in multiple countries and languages required a leap in technology over our previous capabilities. A new content-management system was identified to run the front-end, and a best in class integration platform was leveraged for clinical trial data and translations.

A factor in choosing the right systems was the concept of distributing work away from the technical support team. For example, transferring the maintenance of content management and translation can reduce the dependency on technical resources significantly, while enhancing the long-term sustainability of support. This also allows the technical staff to focus on true development work - adding features, fixing bugs, etc. - not performing activities that the business could be trained to do.

Why Study Connect?

All the above services come together to support recruitment goals, boost patient enrollment and ultimately the development of drugs through the successful completion of clinical trials. However, clinical trials start with patient education through patient engagement tactics.

No two people will have the same experience on Study Connect and no two patients have the same journey to learn about their disease and the options they may consider. Our hope is that Study Connect becomes part of the experience of more patients around the globe, helps them learn about clinical trials and facilitates meaningful conversations with their doctors.

BMS is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. Study Connect is an innovative digital platform to help raise awareness of clinical trial research and enhance clinical trial recruitment to support the delivery of medicines faster to patients.


  • 1. Brehm, C. CISCRP 2019 Perceptions & Insights Study patient-engagement-insights-from-the-2019-ciscrp-perceptions-insights-study/, Feb 2020.
  • 2. Thomas, J. Source - facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-an d-fig ures/2019/cancer-facts-and- figures-2019.pdf Dec 2019.
  • 3. Patients-Want-Visualization.pdf, Feb. 2020.
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