How the cost-of-living crisis is impacting patient retention in clinical trials

Medical research and clinical trials are crucial for the future of healthcare and the development of new treatments.  Those trials could not happen without people willing to take part and commit to the end of the trial. 

Participant recruitment and retention are major challenges for those managing them. Inadequate recruitment and retention management increases the time and cost of trials and could cause trials to fail.

In this article, we will be looking at the impact of inflation and rising living costs on trial participation, and why it’s of the utmost importance to reimburse participants’ expenses quickly and efficiently. 

The Cost-of-living Crisis

The recent increase in rent, food and fuel prices, has led to an increase in the financial burden on households. Gas prices alone have risen by 28%. 

This problem isn’t limited to those currently living in poverty or on a low income, it also impacts middle-income households. 

That’s why the cost of living has been a topic of discussion among researchers and clinical trial volunteers. Understanding how this crisis affects potential trial participants is important as they are more likely to drop out if not addressed properly. 

Financial barriers and patients drop out rates

We have identified many reasons why patients drop out of clinical trials including anxiety, fear, conflict of schedules and forgetfulness but we will focus on financial barriers as these gain even more weight in difficult economic environments.

Common reasons for patients to drop out are financial issues such as not being reimbursed for their expenses; having very convoluted expenses claiming processes or waiting long periods for reimbursements. Another point is if participants would need to take time off work to participate and how that can impact their job and finances (people that work in the gig economy for example).  

It is also essential to consider families’ and carers’ needs. Some patient groups will need financial support with childcare or carers’ expenses to take part in trials and not catering for those needs will make effectively exclude them from trials.

Some people may also have changes in circumstances during the trial, like job losses, that make it difficult to continue participating in the study without more financial support. So, simple communication and agile processes around reimbursements become crucial to maintain patients engaged, and detect and address potential issues quickly. 

Underrepresented groups have a higher chance of dropping out of clinical trials because they often face more financial, cultural, and language barriers than others.

The Role of Expenses Reimbursements in Clinical Trials

This becomes even more pressing with higher inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, as people’s disposable income diminishes, and financial worries arise.  

Simple and fast expense reimbursement has proven to be an effective solution to this problem. It helps many research participants feel more comfortable with their involvement in a trial and gives them peace of mind when it comes to managing their lives and spending. This is also crucial to increase the diversity of participants.

For certain groups, who may need other higher value expenses covered such as childcare, swift reimbursement is even more important as they are more likely to drop out if their expenses are not covered. 

Connecting with patients 

With trial dropout rates as high as 30%, patient retention is a high priority for researchers and trial managers. To be able to understand patients’ sentiments and circumstances, that can impact their participation, researchers must connect with them as real people and empathise with their situation.  

New technology can play an important part in supporting clinical trials to improve patient experience and therefore retention. Utilising innovative engagement solutions shows appreciation for the patient by providing less friction. 

At vHelp we provide a fast and effective way to reimburse patients’ expenses. We ensure the patient is reimbursed within 24 hours of their expense approval. vHelp also reduces admin involved in processing expenses by 88%.  

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

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