Study Shows that with Clinical Trial Participation Comes the Burden of Travel
A recent study published in The Oncologist showed that patients who enroll in clinical trials are heavily burdened by the travel required of them in order to participate.
The study examined data relating to 1,600 cancer patients from the University of California San Francisco Clinical Trial Management System database who enrolled in a clinical trial between the years 1993 and 2014. Of the study sponsor types, 56.4% were sponsored by principal investigator studies, 22.2% by industry sponsors, 11.6% by cooperative groups, and 9.8% by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The researchers measured the distance patients had to travel from their homes to the study sites. They found that, overall, patients traveled an average distance of 25.8 miles for their visits. Interestingly, the study found that patients in NIH-sponsored studies had to travel quite a bit farther - 39.4 miles on average. When the data was broken down by study phase, it was determined that patients in phase 1 studies had to travel the farthest, averaging out at 41.2 miles.
The study authors acknowledged that “Future work will need to examine the total out-of-pocket expenses assumed by patients across multiple academic centers to account for regional and geographic variability of trial participation," and they are right.
Sponsors who elect to cover travel costs for patients see much higher retention rates in their studies, particularly if they choose to use a travel vendor to manage patient reimbursements. A travel vendor is able to easily process reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses associated with traveling to a clinical trial site for things such as mileage, parking, and meals. Industry-specific vendors provide the added benefit of being able to familiarize themselves with study protocols. They also understand IRB and EC regulations, so sponsors can rest assured that patients will not be mistakenly reimbursed for anything that would fall outside of IRB or EC-approved costs.
Depending on just how far a patient is from their study site, they may have to search for airline tickets, rail tickets, and/or hotel rooms. This can be stressful on the patient as it is just one more step they have to take. A travel vendor can coordinate all travel needs for the patient on the sponsor’s dime so that patients never have to worry about booking or paying for travel. Industry-specific vendors can also anticipate patient travel needs based on the requirements outlined in the protocol and proactively reach out to patients directly to book travel for their upcoming visits; this eliminates the rate of missed study appointments. All of this is a huge help to patients, caregivers, and sponsors.
The Oncologist’s study shows that the need for travel support in clinical trials has existed for decades - sponsors should take note. Providing patients with travel services improves the experience of participating in a clinical trial, and improves the quality of the studies that sponsors can run.
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