If the clinical trial industry is serious about promoting diversity, it’s time to take a holistic approach to patient outreach and eschew its current “transactional” nature, says Chris Komelasky, CEO of SiteBridge Research.
“We have to develop relationships” with various populations spread across the country, Komelasky says. “We need to reach out with different messages, at different times, using different channels.” Unfortunately, the current tactic tends to be reaching out to patient populations only when there’s a specific potential study involved, he notes.
“We need to go beyond the study lens, and instead listen to the [various] communities to learn about their challenges,” Komelasky says. “We have to elevate the discussion.”
There’s no magic wand or one-size-fits-all approach to connecting with diverse and traditionally underserved populations, he says. There are many issues to consider when reaching out to disparate groups, including disease state, geography, socioeconomic issues, ethnicities, and even the rural/urban divide in the United States, he notes. “There are layers of challenges” to address, but it can be done by those who are willing to put in some hard work, he adds.
In addition to firmly believing in the value and importance of diversity in clinical trials, Komelasky points out that regulatory mandates are beginning to appear on the horizon, which will force the hands of even those who are reluctant to address the issue. “We have to he more thoughtful as an entire healthcare ecosystem” as we design clinical trials and engage in other activities, he adds.
Diversity mandates will absolutely “impact the planning and implementation” of clinical trials, Komelasky says. “We have to engage more in the long term” and develop relationships with diverse populations, he advises, noting that it needs to be sustained outreach, and not just transactional, when a site is looking to fill a particular trial.
“There’s been a lot of talk about” promoting diversity, he says. “Now it’s time to discuss practical solutions.”
Author: Michael Causey