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(Clinical) trial and error: What I’ve learned from my years in clinical research

At the grand old age of 41, I’ve had a varied career. I spent my first 15 working years running clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies in a variety of roles. After having children and deciding to shake things up a bit, I’m now enjoying clinical research from a different perspective. I’m now “agency” side, working with Skin and Blister, a healthcare communications agency.

One of the main things I’ve learnt at Skin and Blister so far is the importance of putting the patient first. This got me thinking about how differently I considered patients when “client” side.  

Patient recruitment has been a major part of every role I’ve had. With clinical trials costing so much, recruiting patients as quickly as possible and ensuring they complete per protocol is always a top priority. But despite patients being so crucial to the success of a trial, I admit that my focus as a clinical project manager would be on timelines and budget, rather than patient experience.  Often the only thought I used to give to patients was how many I needed to meet our target.

My light bulb moment on patient engagement and retention came when we employed the services of Skin and Blister to help a struggling study. They took the time to get to know my patients. They spoke with them, their carers and healthcare professionals to learn more about their journey and enlightened us on the best ways to communicate with them. It should have been obvious to me that patients who are spoken to in a meaningful way, will be more likely to want to participate in the first place – and to see the study through to the end. Skin and Blister’s mission of putting the care back into healthcare communications opened my eyes to the value of really putting patients first.

Clinical trials are expensive beasts, with each day in drug development costing sponsors money. They can be stressful for everyone involved, with a lot of pressure along the way. It’s easy to see why patients can get forgotten. But Skin and Blister have made me realise that it’s the patients that make or break a trial – and those people are far more than just a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria. I now appreciate that every patient on a trial has their own story to tell and reason for taking part. Patients can’t be an afterthought. Let’s invest in them from the beginning.


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