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Top 7 Reasons to Refer Patients to Neurology Clinical Trials

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Medically reviewed by Vicente Conrado Trapani, MD.

Neurological diseases are hard for patients to cope with, emotionally and physically. If current treatments aren’t effective, or patients are seeking additional help, clinical trials can help meet their needs. 

Although there are multiple ongoing trials, there are barriers to their timely completion and clinical practice results' translatability. Many of these trials struggle with recruiting and enrolling patients, with 86% of clinical trials failing to reach recruitment targets within required timeframes. As healthcare providers with access to patients, neurologists can close this gap by referring their patients to these studies. 

Here are seven reasons neurologists and geriatricians should refer their patients to clinical trials.

1) Patient-provider trust inspires confidence in patients about clinical trials.

One of the leading factors influencing patient enrollment in clinical trials is the patients' ability to trust their providers or the healthcare system in general. For example, diverse patient communities who may have encountered uncomfortable situations while receiving care may be less inclined to sign up for and enroll in clinical trials. Additionally, many patients do not have access to accurate information regarding the trials' possible benefits and risks. 

Doctors remain the primary educators of patients. By cultivating strong patient-provider relationships, neurologists have an opportunity to relay information about possible benefits and risks to patients. Patients may then be more likely to consider enrolling in clinical trials. In fact, volunteers in some clinical trials report basing their decision to enroll in trials on discussions with, or referrals from, their healthcare providers.

2) Patient recruitment for clinical trials can go much faster.

The process of recruiting patients for clinical trials is painstaking, often requiring significant time and effort to identify, interview, and enroll patients that fit a study's eligibility criteria. For example, some trials have reported an investment of up to 10 hours per study participant enrolled.

With new enhancements in technology and artificial intelligence, the patient recruitment process could go much faster for neurologists looking to refer their patients to clinical trials. These tools provide automated patient analysis, allowing clinical providers to focus on other recruitment aspects, such as discussing potential risks and benefits with patients. 

Unlike the clinical trial recruitment staff, neurologists also have a better understanding of their patient histories and sometimes have tools that help match them to trials. As such, neurologists can quickly assess each patient's possible benefits and risks, streamlining the recruitment process and avoiding issues with patient ineligibility down the line.

3) Increased recruitment of diverse populations to clinical trials.

Given the different responses to treatments within racially and ethnically diverse patients such as African Americans and Latinos, it is important to recruit more diverse participants. While community outreach and recruitment strategies might help recruit more diverse participants, some of them are not likely to stay in the clinical trial course. 

Despite several efforts to diversify clinical trial recruitment, there still exists underlying health inequality. The FDA reports less than 5% of Black participants in most clinical trials for new drugs and therapies. However, several studies indicate a twice higher likelihood of Blacks developing Alzheimer's disease than whites, possibly due to socioeconomic disparities, chronic disease prevalence, and genetics.

Neurologists have a unique opportunity to refer their diverse patients to clinical trials whose outcomes could greatly benefit the treatment of diverse patient populations. These referrals would help meet diversity criteria for clinical trials and contribute to these studies' inclusivity.

4) Patients are more likely to complete the entirety of a clinical trial.

Active participation of patients in clinical trials is likely to be much higher with their neurologist's referral. Since clinical trials take many years to complete, high patient retention is critical in determining the trial's success. When neurologists refer their patients to these trials, it is easier for them to keep the patients accountable throughout the process. During patient visits, neurologists can engage patients on their progress within the trial, responding to and guiding them through any questions and concerns. 

5) Patients could receive a groundbreaking treatment from clinical trials.

Neurologists allow patients unresponsive to existing therapies to try new investigational treatments by referring them to clinical trials. Referrals can be life-changing when all other therapeutic options have been exhausted. In cases where a patient may not ordinarily have access to this type of information, a neurologist's referral goes a long way in presenting an opportunity to improve the patient's quality of life. 

6) Increases patient access to new medicines.

By referring patients to clinical trials, neurologists can participate in bringing a new treatment closer to patients. For patients with limited access to medicines due to socioeconomic factors, neurologist referrals are essentially eliminating barriers by providing access to potential new treatments.

The progress of clinical trials undeniably contributes to the improvement of clinical practice for many neurological conditions. Neurologist referrals and engagement with clinical trials can help advance trials progress while offering patients the opportunity to access potentially life-saving treatment.

7) Increases patient engagement and retention.

Many neurological diseases are incurable, often contributing to tremendous stress for both patients and caregivers. Following multiple attempts at current treatments that do not work, patients and their caregivers might start to lose motivation if their neurologists keep prescribing an inefficient treatment course. 

Patients and their caregivers could, then, be more inclined to seek out studies on their own that might provide more efficacious treatments or even other neurologists who might offer a chance at effective therapies. By referring these patients to clinical trials, neurologists can maintain patient engagement, providing patients an opportunity to discover new and potentially efficacious treatments. In this way, patients are less likely to be recruited by, and transition to, other principal investigators and clinical trials. <

At SiteRx, we help bridge the gap between clinical research and clinical care for your neurological patients. Schedule your FREE demo today by calling  (213) 797-7520. 


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Additional Resources:

Guide to Participating in Clinical Trials 
Integrating Clinical Research Into Your Care Continuum 
Under-enrollment in Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials

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