Leveraging Digital Channels to Improve Diversity in Clinical Trials 

welocalize September 15, 2021

Improving diversity in clinical trials has been a focus for many health bodies and governments around the world for decades. Understandably so, as medical treatments are used by all and the studies that secure their approval should be reflective of the people that will receive them. Only by doing this will we fully understand the efficacy and safety of drugs in the market. 

However, the challenge of diversity is still present, and many barriers remain. In this article, we explore the issue of diversity in clinical trials, the barriers to recruitment, and a possible solution that digital channels can offer by targeting people where they spend their time and facilitating remote participation. 

Why is Diversity an Issue? 

It was only in 2001 that the US National Institute of Health mandated that women and members of minority groups should be included in any clinical trials funded by them. Twenty years later, diversity numbers are still low. In trials involving the approval of new molecular entities and biologics in 2020, only 11% of participants were Hispanic, 8% were Black and 6% were Asian. 

An article by MedCity News reports that Black patients made up less than 5% of the clinical trials for 24 out of the 31 cancer drugs approved since 2015, despite making up 12% of the patient population. Furthermore, only 3% of adult patients with cancer have access to participate in clinical trials. 

This lack of disparity has significant consequences for the provision of healthcare around the world. Drugs affect people differently for a variety of reasons, including age, sex, race, and ethnicity. For example, a study by Ramamoorthy et al. found that around one-fifth of new drugs approved in the last 6 years demonstrated variations in response depending on the race or ethnicity of participants. 

As we move to an era of personalized medicine, it’s never been more important to ensure that trials for new therapeutics are tested on a patient population that reflects our diversity. 

What are the Barriers to Diverse Trial Populations? 

Traditional trials ask patients to travel to the clinical trial site to both receive their treatment and undergo any evaluations related to the trial. One study found that patients were required to travel an average of 40 miles to reach the center for trials sponsored by the National Institute of Health. Furthermore, those from lower-income areas traveled far longer (58.3 miles) when compared to those from higher-income areas (17.8 miles). 

The results of this study demonstrate a clear disparity in accessibility for those from lower-income areas, which are often disproportionately populated by minority groups. Travel alone could incur a significant cost burden, let alone associated costs, such as childcare and absence from work. 

In addition, past historical abuses in studies, such as the Tuskegee syphilis study, have led to widespread mistrust of the healthcare system and those running clinical trials. 

To remove the barriers to clinical trial diversity, we need to explore options that facilitate easy participation and trust-building. 

Welocalize Life Sciences explores the issue of diversity in clinical trials and a possible solutions that digital channels can offer by facilitating remote participation Click To Tweet


Could Digital Channels offer the Solution to Diversity in Clinical Trials? 

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the possibilities of remote working and how connected we can still be, no matter the distance between us. From pharmacovigilance reporting to GP consultations, we’ve used digital channels to keep life as normal as possible. These same techniques offer unique possibilities for improving diversity in clinical trials. 

Where before participants were required to travel huge distances, remote conference calls could eliminate that barrier entirely. Trial doses could be delivered to the participants’ homes and assessments carried out virtually.  

Digital solutions can also support patient recruitment. Alex Yanishevshy, Director of AI Deployments, and Hugh McCallion, Senior Director of Solutions, presented at MAGI’s Clinical Research vConference highlighting the benefits of enabling diversity in patient recruitment through reaching people where they are online. A staggering 85% of people use Google once or more per day, and the average user spends more than 2 hours each day on social media. 

By using targeted messaging approaches and advertising at the places we know each of our audiences spend their time, we can ensure diversity in those being exposed to trial opportunities and ensure those channels are used to build trust and confidence in the process. 

The Right Message in the Right Context 

The diversity in age, sex, religion, race, and ethnicity is wonderfully rich. And so is our language. By delivering translations that are accurate and culturally appropriate to a diverse audience, you can ensure that the message of recruitment lands the same, no matter who’s reading it.

Welocalize, can help you achieve this. With a network of over 250,000 native-level language specialists and a dedicated team of experts in participant recruitment, we provide messaging that’s accurate, culturally appropriate and delivered on time. In fact, our quality is guaranteed by five ISO certifications.

If you want support in expanding the scope of your clinical trials, get in touch and we’ll support you in delivering the right message in the right places to a wide variety of patient groups.