Patient Engagement: Are We There Yet?


Applied Clinical Trials

Applied Clinical TrialsApplied Clinical Trials-02-01-2018
Volume 27
Issue 2

Findings from a new ACT and SCORR Marketing survey reveal a gap in the shift to true patient-engagement in clinical trials, but overall measures do signal growth in patient-centric activities.

The latest survey results conducted with our partner SCORR Marketing show some rifts in the move toward more patient engagement in clinical trials. 

With most of the respondents coming from academia or at the investigative site, another third were from the sponsors. More than half of the respondents said that there was no individual or department primarily tasked with patient engagement, and another 40% indicated they do not solicit input directly from patients for any of their patient engagement activities. This is somewhat surprising given the number of articles that Applied Clinical Trials has featured on the topic of patient centricity. A cursory search of our website brings up topics related to patient-centric activities to improve the trial experience, digital health tools to ensure patient engagement, outreach to advocacy groups to involve patients in the development of protocol design, and much more. 

However, the survey did indicate that the two most important factors in the study design stage was to have a better trial design for patients, as well as identifying what were acceptable benefits and risks for patients.

At the clinical trial stage, patient adherence to medication dosing and site visits schedule was the primary reason for patient engagement activities, with higher patient retention and more satisfied patients tied for second. And after the trial, the longer-term goals for engaging the patient were to determine which outcomes were most important to patients, as well as encourage their future participation in clinical trials. 

mHealth and technology

As mentioned, many reports show that mHealth and digital technology are increasingly being piloted or used in clinical trials as a patient engagement tool. However, our survey showed that most respondents believe in-person interactions were the most effective way to engage patients. Meanwhile, apps, web portals, social media, and chat or instant messaging all garnered around a five-out-of-10 for effectiveness. 

Couple that with the question, “Has the use of technological innovations such as mHealth, wearables and companion apps provided a positive ROI?” with the following results: Unsure, 43%; No, 21%; and Yes, 21%. 

Technology use could be a budgetary factor based on the results of the survey, which indicated insufficient study budgets were the biggest challenge to adopting patient engagement activities, as well as the most important factor of future implementation of patient engagement initiatives. 

Additionally, the survey showed an inexact science to measuring the effectiveness of patient engagement activities, or consistent metrics for evaluation. Most said that retention is their primary measure for engagement, followed by adherence. Almost a quarter do not measure engagement levels.

Overall, respondents do believe that patient engagement activities will increase over the next few years. Considering that patient centricity and patient engagement weren’t given much attention until five or six years ago, we can take these results as a whole that clinical operations managers, directors, and staff believe that the patient centricity movement is intact and engagement activities are the necessary path to take. Please download the full survey report at


Lisa Henderson is Editor-in-Chief of Applied Clinical Trials. She can be reached at Follow Lisa on Twitter: @trialsonline


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