While patient travel and reimbursement have historically been thought of as a secondary consideration when planning for a clinical trial, new specialized services are bringing the conversation to the forefront. Today's centrally managed programs offer clinical trial sponsors unmatched convenience, flexibility, and sophistication, while delivering measurable patient enrollment and engagement results.
"We've seen withdrawal rates 60 percent lower at study sites using our travel and reimbursement program." - Aaron Fleishman, Director, Market Development, BBK Worldwide
Gone are the days when taxi vouchers and reimbursement checks were the norm. Today's services meet the needs of clinical trial participants – they're personalized, convenient, and expansive. They remove logistical barriers to participation – whether it's providing a patient who has impaired physical mobility with a ride to and from study appointments, or it's helping a family whose child has a rare disease travel halfway around the globe to participate in a study. They remove financial barriers – providing patients with timely reimbursement for study-related expenses and equalizing participation opportunities.
Below we look at five industry trends shaping today's clinical trial travel and reimbursement. They present opportunities for clinical trial sponsors who are seeking to enhance enrollment and engagement efforts while increasing patient access to care.
Prioritizing the Patient Experience
Industry experts have long appreciated the impact a positive patient experience can have on clinical trial engagement. As travel and reimbursement are closely tied with patient satisfaction, there's an enhanced effort to bring convenience and satisfaction to the experience. As such, we're seeing the emergence of everything from patient-centric apps and 24-7 travel support to long-term housing and onsite interpreters.
We've also seen the introduction of "study-life balance," a construct which recognizes the increasing complexity of everyday life and removes impediments to clinical trial participation by leveraging patient-centric travel and reimbursement solutions.
The Empowered Healthcare Consumer
Today's healthcare consumer wants customized and convenient experiences. They have been trained by online platforms like Amazon and OpenTable to expect immediate access to information, and they have become accustomed to an "on-demand" model for many services that prioritize convenience, access, and transparency. In response, we're seeing the emergence of dynamic patient portals that offer study participants similar levels of control and convenience in managing their clinical trial reimbursement and travel.
Precision support eliminates the one-size-fits-all approach to travel and replaces it with customized solutions that match support to the science of the protocol. It's aligned with the needs of a shifting clinical trial landscape brought on by scientific innovation and targeted treatments. Precision support provides sponsors with solutions they need to align services to their individual protocols and to the individual needs of participants based on medical status, lifestyle, cultural norms, and geographic location.
As protocols become more complex, sponsors need cost-effective and scalable solutions to meet the needs of diverse patient populations – both within a particular study and across multiple studies. For instance, within one study, a patient may live near a site and require a simple car ride, while another patient may be traveling from another city and need a hotel room or long-term housing. Or perhaps over the course of participation in an ALS study, a patient's mobility declines – they may not need wheelchair accessible services in the beginning but over time their need changes. Tiered programs respond to a wide range of needs, offering flexible solutions – from simple to complex – while keeping management centralized with a single service provider.
Alleviating Site Burden
Site burden remains a concern as study staff are often tasked with many of the travel- and reimbursement-related responsibilities. Today's travel and reimbursement programs are designed to alleviate burden at the study site so that staff can focus on patient care. They simplify operations for study staff with portals and apps that centralize operations and create efficiencies.