Savvy Community Outreach Key to Growing Patient Populations

John Stewart, MD, Chief and Associate Professor of Surgery, Durham Veterans Administration Hospital of Duke University

John Stewart, MD, Chief and Associate Professor of Surgery, Durham Veterans Administration Hospital of Duke University

If you want to effectively promote clinical trials at the local level, “don’t wait to reach out to your community [until] you need something,” says John Stewart, MD, chief and associate professor of surgery with the Durham Veterans Administration Hospital of Duke University.

Instead, connect with your community proactively over broad health issues such as gun violence or childhood trauma, Stewart told attendees of a panel discussion at the Clinical Trial Collaborations conference in Cambridge, Mass., on April 11. “The community is a big, big driver,” he emphasized. However, there are no shortcuts when it comes to building trust in a community, he said. “It takes a lot of sweat equity.”

It’s vital to conduct the work at the grassroots level, Stewart and other panelists said. Many communities are wary, or ignorant when it comes to clinical trials. Overly complex informed consent practices and a perceived opaque use of data generated by trials are two of the more onerous factors to overcome, Stewart said.

It’s incumbent on local clinical trial professionals to work toward a “sincere and genuine presence” in the local community, said Murray Abramson, MD, vice president for global clinical operations with Biogen. It’s a key to building credibility and collaboration, he and other panelists agreed.

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Patient voices are increasingly influential with regulators and payers, Abramson said. Patients are also having a growing impact on the medical scientific community. Patients are calling for trials that demonstrate clear benefit to them, and that’s a demand that should be kept front of mind throughout the clinical trial life cycle, Abramson added.

There’s another interesting trend at work, according to Jeff James, CEO of Wilmington Health. “We’re seeing trial participation less driven by [principal investigators (PIs)], and more by primary care physicians,” he said. Even if the physicians don’t want to be PIs, “they are becoming more and more vocal about learning what trials are coming that might be of benefit to their set of patients. That’s a very positive thing.”

Author: Michael Causey


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