In the business of clinical trials, it can be difficult to raise interest and acquire volunteers for participation, due to the challenges associated with patient engagement. The analysis of a recent study of clinical trial patient recruitment has determined that SMS text messaging can produce dramatic results. While there are many ways to garner patient participation – via letters or through email – firms that conduct clinical trials are finding that the most effective way to reach new volunteers can be achieved through the simplicity of text messaging technology.
The study examined the evidence from the Johnson County Clin-Trials (JCCT), a research facility that conducts between ten and fifteen vaccine clinical trials every year. Primarily using email to reach their volunteers, they have come up against some resistance when trying to reach prospective recruits. Studies regarding the effectiveness of electronic correspondence have revealed that emails have an open rate of about 22% – a far cry from the response rate necessary to conduct these clinical trials.
As a result, the Johnson County Clin-Trials decided to employ SMS text messages as a means for electronic communications, based on the effectiveness of text messages in reaching individuals. As opposed to email, 98% of SMS users read their messages, and 90% of these users open their text messages within three minutes of receiving them. Here are the key findings from JCCT’s method:
1) A marked increase in response to messages
The use of text messages to reach potential volunteers produced a response five times greater than that of their previous method, via email. The study achieved a 1% increase in enrollment for every 1.5% increase in text messages sent. This was much greater than the response increase expected in the hypothesis for the study.
2) Positive responses to the SMS method
JCCT patients responded positively to the SMS method. The method practiced compliance with HIPAA and 21 CFR Part 11, making sure that the process was validated. Also, all users were required to opt-in to receiving SMS (per FCC regulations). Overall, the individuals who were contacted welcomed the correspondence, and preferred text message to other forms of communication.
3) Effective two-way communication via SMS
Many patients used the SMS platform to respond directly to the outgoing SMS message. Patients expressed their concerns, questions, and queries for more information. The platform, created by Mosio, provided a framework to have both interactive and automated conversations with future patients, and consequently allowing them to enroll directly. This also reduced the burden of JCCT personnel, freeing them up for other tasks necessary for the clinical trial.
4) A balance of resources for the clinical trial firm
The SMS text messaging method employed by JCCT allowed the firm to free up resources due to the effectiveness of the technology. Not only did the method boost trial recruitment, but there was evidence of cost savings for the firm. Finally, the study benefited from effective scheduling with the technology, as well as a subsequent improvement in the quality of the clinical trial’s results.
Upcoming studies of clinical trials like that of the Johnson County Clin-Trials will compare the SMS method to other common recruiting approaches in order to quantify the effectiveness of each approach. With a focus on trial retention, future researchers hope to reduce attrition rates and increase adherence with existing clinical trial participants using the SMS method. Clearly, the simple technology of SMS text messaging has been a breakthrough for patient recruitment and engagement, and we can expect to see a great deal more communication taking place through SMS and text messages in the future.