The biggest external factor, besides funding, that can thwart success in bringing a new medicine to market is recruiting sufficient patients in an efficient time frame. Estimates suggest that 90% of clinical trials are delayed by slow patient enrollment. But, if organizations are aware of this, what is preventing them from overcoming the patient recruitment challenge?
One major reason is a traditional bias toward a step-by-step way of proceeding in the clinical development process, which manifests, for example, in approaching patient enrollment in a protocol-by-protocol fashion rather than in a more strategic manner. Program-wide recruitment planning enables sponsors to not only maximize patient awareness and communication across studies, but it also yields efficiencies in media costs and contract negotiations which can be leveraged across trials as well.
Developing a successful patient appeal to motivate trial enrollment requires understanding the mindsets of target patients as well as any practical/logistics-based barriers to participation that may need to be overcome. A branding program is a strategic communications process that starts with understanding the target patients and progresses to the development of trial communications that are effective for those target patients. In our experience, this includes identifying the triggers (functional, emotional, self-expressive and social) that will motivate patients to engage with your study(-ies) and communicating content effectively over time to keep them engaged. Of course, along the way, it also involves creating strong and compelling trial names and identities.
In these highly competitive times where sponsor companies are vying heavily for patients, what was once a fairly standard practice of developing names utilizing letters from a trial title that aren’t relevant to the trial objectives (e.g., ALBION Trial – Assessment of the Best Loading Dose of Clopidogrel to Blunt Platelet Activation, Inflammation and Ongoing Necrosis) more and more companies are (or should be) looking to more engaging creative strategies based on understanding what motivates their target audiences (patients, caregivers, recommending HCPs, etc.).
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If the goal is to attract patients to clinical trials, then why not create attractive, informative, inspiring and hopeful names based on what motivates these patients to become involved? For example, we named a trial in DMD the Brave Study, representative of the courage these young boys (and sometimes girls) display on a daily basis as they try to live a normal life and keep up with their friends. Alternatively, if the trial branding is targeted to HCPs (as well as patients), don’t be afraid to introduce references to the science or MOA. In oncology, for example, we developed the Ph+ALLCON Study branding (in Philadelphia positive ALL). The name was credible and meaningful to referring HCPs while also suggesting (via its play on the real word Falcon) the targeting, strong and effective benefits of the treatment to patients.
Notwithstanding, the way trial names are brought to life visually is also critical to motivational trial brands. If the strategy calls for hope and optimism, then incorporate design and colors that reinforce these themes. Utilize integrated shapes and designs that suggest something inspirational, uplifting and hopeful such as designs suggesting upward movement, energy and lightness (versus something heavy or morose).
Also, be careful to keep your audiences’ specific needs or limitations in mind. For example, we developed a clinical trial brand in achromatopsia (people with partial or total absence of color vision) called the Chromeos Study. For our design development, we had to make sure we used colors that translated effectively to black, white and shades of gray.
In the end, there is not one single naming or design strategy that fits all trials. As trials are designed to attract specific patient types, it is critical to understand what motivates these patient types and customize your trial branding strategy and verbal and visual branding around these unique emotive drivers, therefore giving you the best chance to attract patients into your trial over other options they certainly have.
In sum, taking a strategic approach to patient enrollment first and foremost means understanding patients, specifically their perceptions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes, and using those insights to craft branding and integrated communications that appeal and motivate action. It also means extending that search for insight to caregivers and advocacy groups to engage them more actively.
As in all endeavors aimed at driving human behavior, it is essential to know your audience(s) and tell a compelling story.