The Importance of Research Literacy in Recruiting Clinical Trial Participants

Article By Samantha Trolli IN Participant Recruitment - 6th May, 2022

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      Poor communication and lack of access to information about a clinical trial can cause mistrust, which is a common barrier for patient recruitment, engagement, and retention. Regardless of the potential participant, they could always benefit from a simpler, clear, and more transparent explanation of the trial they are being recruited to participate in. Despite this need, clear communication between the researcher and participant/subject is rarely seen in clinical trials. A potential way to remove this barrier is to improve research literacy, which can be defined as the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the information required to make an informed choice with regards to research participation. The lack of health literacy is such that 9 out of 10 Americans struggle to process and understand the scientific terminology and structure of clinical research studies. 

     A patient-centric approach has become more common in the clinical space, which involves improving patient health literacy. There are multiple ways a researcher can actively communicate and provide clear information to their participants to maintain transparency and trust, a few of them being: distribution of brochures/informational flyers, social media outreach sites, existing plain-language dictionaries, videos, and study summaries. The above-mentioned examples give the researcher the opportunity to maintain trust and communication throughout the duration of their study. Each of these media can be translated into multiple languages, meeting the need for more diversity in clinical trials. 

     Improving health literacy has the potential to benefit more than the participant if done properly. Health Literacy Media believes that health literacy can make a positive and productive difference to clinical trials in terms of recruitment, diversity, informed consent, retention, engagement, equity, results, including communication of results to participants, and evaluation. 

     Hypothetically, better health literacy creates a safer environment, which in turn encourages more participants to participate in clinical trials. Furthermore, this safer environment has the ability to foster a more diverse potential participant pool by removing the barrier of mistrust. Overall, health literacy can improve understanding, diversity, safety, and in clinical trials - which are, in my opinion, attributes worth pursuing.

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