the microsampling blog

clinical trials: the challenge of subject retention

 A young patient taking medication in a clinical trial environmentClinical trials are one of the most important elements in research and modern healthcare. It is through clinical trials that medications are tested and their effectiveness established. Without the trials, it would be challenging to make any modern-day medical breakthroughs.
Like any other research field, clinical trials face a number of challenges. Recruitment and retention of patients for clinical trials is one very challenging aspect. There are several reasons why subject retention is challenging. They include:

1. Most clinical trials have a small population of patients with conditions being investigated. Once they've been found, it can be hard to keep them engaged. One reliable means of finding and keeping patients who are willing to participate in these trials is making the research public. Once the patients are there, it’s important to let them know everything there is to know (that is reasonable to reveal to the patient) about the research. A training session in which the patients meet the scientists they will be working with is sometimes appropriate. It would help patients know what is expected of them and why they're doing this.

2. There is often a fear of side effects. This can lead to patients dropping out of the research. This usually affects patients at the initial stage of the study just before the trials start. It is often a psychological factor and can be eased by creating awareness. Information helps put the patients’ minds at ease and lets them know what to expect. Once the trials start, the patients do not drop out of the study because of uncertainty; they already know what to expect.

3. It is difficult to retain patients once the trials have started if the patient’s circumstances change. For example, a patient’s family may decide to relocate while the study is ongoing. An unforeseen distance barrier might make it difficult for a patient to continue participating in the trials.

4. Finally, the fear of study procedures may result in patients dropping out. Procedures such constant blood draws could be minimized by using patient-friendly tools that can improve their experience. These are new tools such as microsampling, which allows collection of very small amounts of blood. Incentives for patients participating may help retain them. In an increasing number of cases, remote monitoring through remote sampling may also be an option.

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