5 Proven Strategies for Driving Patient Engagement


Use the “CLEAR” path to effectively engage patients and build their confidence in an increasingly digital and mobile pharmaceutical environment.

The number of clinical trials is increasing, from approximately 35,000 trials in 2006 to more than 200,000 clinical trials underway in 2016. Given the pace of discovery and innovation in the biopharma industry, there is no end in sight for this trend, and it is making patient recruitment and retention more important than ever.

Unfortunately, there is a persistently low level of patient trust in pharma, and positive patient engagement is crucial for improving long-term trust for companies to achieve business results and the completion of trials. To effectively engage patients and build their confidence in an increasingly digital and mobile environment, the pharmaceutical industry needs implement a “CLEAR” method that leverages: credibility, literacy, expectation management, accessibility and that relates to patients.


One of the most important factors for engaging patients in the clinical trial process is to build credibility, and speak to patients in a trusted voice. For example, the industry has seen great results when recruitment materials include testimonials from patients or caregivers, who have participated in a trial. In addition to testimonials, there are several other ways to build credibility:

  • Taking compassion into account to build trust while shaping the tone of patient communications is a key consideration. While med-legal requirements are a fact of life, it does not mean that content should be needlessly complicated and obtuse.

  • Creating and providing tools to make it easy for a patient’s circle of care to be more involved in their loved ones journey, can further expand a sense of compassion and engagement.



According to the Department of Health & Human Services, only 12%  of U.S. adults possess proficient health literacy. This is a critical factor to keep in mind, especially when designing recruitment and educational materials. One approach that is effective in addressing the challenge of health literacy is creating interactive infographics of trial protocols. These infographics provide a simple visual depiction of often complicated schedules that make the information easier to understand. These infographics are not only useful for patients, but also for site staff and investigators.

Expectation Management

Literacy alone is not enough. Pharma and life science organizations also need to design experiences that are predictive, organized and optimized for a positive user experience. We’ve seen trial enrollment and completion rates improve by presenting patients with the ability to take a “trial run.” This is a virtual experience that allows patients to walk through a trial protocol and familiarize themselves with the expected schedule of visits and assessments. There has also been positive feedback when FAQ responses are written and presented by nurses or other patients.


Often times, clinical trial materials are poorly designed and distributed across limited channels. As a result, it is essential to create tools and content that are age appropriate, shareable and supported by multiple devices. For example, providing large text views for seniors, mobile options for millennials, email messaging for baby boomers and more makes trial communications more accessible. In addition, a strategy for broad recruitment and SEO is also often overlooked. In order to make a trial accessible to as many patients as possible, organizations need to invest in professional SEO and geo-targeting.


It is important to design familiar experiences into trial communications. Organizations should not limit themselves to the assumption that health and science communication should be dry and boring. It is also important to present information that is sensitive to cultural and gender nuances, as well as avoiding imagery and design approaches that are out of touch with the patient population. For example, stock photos of smiling, happy patients may not be appropriate for several types of trials, especially when addressing serious conditions.


Clinical trials are a critical piece in driving medical advances, and it is imperative to effectively engage patients in these trials. By building credibility, focusing on health literacy, managing expectations and creating content that is accessible and relatable, pharma and life sciences organizations can position their clinical trials for “CLEAR” success.

Ken Fabianovicz is the director of commercial strategy and innovation at Cadient, a Cognizant Company.

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