How To Keep Participants Engaged While Your Study is On Hold

COVID-19 has caused massive upheaval within the clinical trials industry with studies being paused, delayed or cancelled, and there is no sense of when they may resume as normal.

In some cases sponsors and government institutions have redirected huge amounts of resources towards COVID-19 related research in response to the pandemic, leaving other studies vulnerable to lengthy delays.

During this time, communication with your participants becomes more important than ever. To keep them interested and engaged is a challenge that can be solved with a little creativity and commitment to keeping things personal.

In this article, we detail how you should communicate with participants and what kind of information you can share to keep your study top of mind.

Why Ongoing Communication With Participants is Important

Keeping participants engaged can be difficult at the best of times, but under current circumstances, it becomes even more important. Participants in your study may be feeling disappointed and frustrated about the situation, especially if the intervention they were receiving was making a marked change to their health.

It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and reinforce your appreciation for their contributions.

These small gestures can help you build your relationship with study participants, which is a critical factor in retention. Other ideas to help maintain participant engagement include:

  • Reminding participants of the benefits of study participation to both themselves and others.
  • Including additional information about how your study fits in with the bigger picture.
  • Allaying any fears or misconceptions about clinical trials that may develop or resurface.
  • Asking for feedback about your participants’ experience to date and creating an improvement plan for when things resume.
  • Reviewing your advertising and recruitment materials, and asking participants for their feedback.
  • Sending a personalized note or birthday card on behalf of the study team.

An open line of communication will go a long way towards building trust between you and your participants, and remind them that they are at the heart of the work you do.

By investing in the relationship with your participants, you will help to maintain their interest in your study, even when you can’t be meeting with them face to face.

What Information To Share With Your Participants

According to the Centre for Information and Study on Clinical Trial Participation (CISCRP), a majority (55%) of people view clinical trial participation as making a significant contribution to human health, ahead of both organ and blood donation.

Being mindful of this, consider taking the time to phone your participants to check in with them. Thank them for their contributions and emphasize your appreciation.

If you can’t do this over the phone, send an email expressing your gratitude, and let them know that you are available to answer their questions and provide more information about the status of the study as it becomes available.

Approximately 68% of participants report that study results are the information they’re most interested in receiving. If you have early data or analysis to share this is a great opportunity to do so.

When communicating, remind participants that their health and safety is your most important priority and that the study won’t resume until this can be guaranteed. You also may not have control over external factors, like social distancing rules or other public health guidelines that can impact your ability to return to normal operations.

Take this opportunity to explain why current guidelines make your study unable to continue in its current form. Outline any adjustments that you may be considering, or what social distancing changes will be necessary for the study to resume.

Ask the study’s Principal Investigator, Medical Director or sponsor to provide an update and thank participants for their contributions. By involving higher level study decision-makers in your communication, you relay trust, credibility, and your entire team’s commitment to the study.

While delays can be frustrating, there are things you can do right now to maintain momentum and keep your participants engaged.

Try keeping the lines of communication open, and thank participants for their contributions.

Expressing your appreciation can keep them engaged and ready to continue when your study resumes. Emphasizing your commitment to their health and safety, along with providing timely updates will go a long way towards building your relationship with each individual.

If you have more questions about how to communicate with your study participants or would like to discuss your recruitment needs further, book a call with us today.

This post was published on May 4, 2020. 

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