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Doctor with patient

Tomorrow, November 14, is World Diabetes Day, a day to acknowledge diabetes patients and the great strides we are making across the health care industry to help people prevent and treat this life-long disease. One way we are working to develop and deliver better treatments to patients faster is by improving the way we recruit and support patients throughout clinical trials.

This is where Clinical Trial Educators (CTEs) come in. CTEs are typically registered nurses who are specifically chosen for trials because they specialize in a specific disease category and understand the unique needs of patients and their healthcare providers in the clinical trial environment. They can play a key role in ensuring patients feel like a valued part of the trial process, and that all of their needs are met with minimum disruption, discomfort, or concern. 

Having such patient-focused experts on the team doesn’t just benefit the patients. By helping the researchers and healthcare providers streamline the care experience and improve patient satisfaction, they create serious savings for sponsors. When CTEs join the research team, trials tend to be completed early — sometimes months ahead of schedule — which saves a substantial amount of money and increases the opportunity to beat competitors to market. And because CTEs provide training and support to site staff, they create a legacy of knowledge that will bolster the efficiency and value of these sites for future trials.

How CTEs work

CTEs add value throughout the clinical trial process, providing knowledge, support and community engagement to improve the quality, efficiency and value of their trials.

  • Patient experience and education. One of the primary goals for CTEs is to create a positive, patient-centred experience that will improve the overall sense of value for patients and reduce the risk of attrition. CTEs often become the face of the trial for research staff and the investigators acting as the point of contact and a relied-upon resource. This is especially valuable for long-term trials, when research sites and patients may grow weary of participating.
  • Trial preparation: Before a patient ever walks through the door, CTEs ensure the staff is ready to manage the trial and ensure every patient’s experience is positive. They work directly with healthcare providers at the research site, providing live education, online and digital training options and ongoing support to everyone from the principal and sub investigators to the nurses, coordinators and patients. They also coordinate dry runs of patient care, making sure everyone knows their role, and that all paperwork, labs and processes are in place before the trial begins, which minimizes the time and frustration that can often occur at the start of a trial.
  • Recruiting. CTEs speed the recruiting process by helping recruiters first define the patient criteria, then identifying additional opportunities to source candidates. That includes connecting with local physicians and patient groups to raise awareness about the trial, and to ask for help identifying and recruiting patients to the study. They also help recruiters hone their messaging to make sure patients understand the value they bring to the research, how their results will be shared with their current physicians, and how the experience will benefit them as patients. All of these steps can add speed and ease to the recruiting process.
  • Support: Once the trial starts, CTEs are available 24/7 to support patients and staff in any way they are needed, from answering questions about the administrative process and data capture technology, to addressing specific patient care issues. For example, in one of our recent diabetes studies, the CTE was in the exam room with the healthcare provider as they placed a device, to act as a coach and an advisor as they got comfortable with the process.
  • Liaison. Along with supporting patients and staff, CTEs act as a liaison with the CRO and the sponsor, keeping them up to date on trial progress and letting them know if there are any problems or changes in the program.

 Ultimately, CTEs improve the patient experience and create an educated consumer network, which can be translated into more effective market launch and improved health outcomes. As clinical trials become more complex — involving new drug categories and devices, and difficult-to-recruit patient populations — such support improves the overall patient experience, which is vital to the sponsors if they want to speed the deliver process while improving the data coming out of these efforts. These experts may add a little upfront cost to the trial budget, but the long-term value they provide, for both patients and staff, is more than worth it.