Thursday, January 12, 2012

Using Customer Service Techniques to Improve Patient Retention

Partnerships In Clinical Trials 2012 Media Partner goBalto has teamed up with this blog to bring you weekly perspectives on the clinical trials and outsourcing industry. We are very excited to present you with weekly contributions leading up to this year's event.

Using Customer Service Techniques to Improve Patient Retention

Authored by Sherry Reuter

Patient Customer Service?

Customer Service is not a term that is usually discussed in the realm of clinical research. Why has this concept not been utilized more in our industry?

For one thing, how Patient-Centric has clinical research really been? The focus has been on the research activities required per the Protocol, following directives given by the sponsor (the site’s customer), and meeting tough goals within time-lines and budgets. The focus on business and science rather than on pleasing its customers (yes, study volunteers are our customers) has been a disconnect when trying to recruit and retain human beings.

Another reason is that the medical field has not traditionally seen itself as a business, and clinical research has only recently begun to be conducted with processes used in other industries. Could using elements of the Customer Service model found to be successful in other industries help clinical research solve some of the most stubborn, expensive and time consuming problems in clinical research: Patient Recruitment and Retention?

Patient Recruitment and Retention, after all, are similar in some ways to the central challenges of many businesses: how to motivate people to use and continue to use services offered. What techniques do other businesses use to do this that would be appropriate to clinical research?

I thought about this today when I had to sit at my car dealer waiting for my car to be serviced, then when I went to the mall to several stores, and later at a restaurant. What factors appealed to me at these businesses, and which made me decide to never be their customer again? The answers were easy, did not cost much, and interestingly, could easily be used in the clinical research setting:

Closing thoughts

If we receive better Customer Service at a good restaurant or department store than we offer to people who are entrusting us with their health in order to make it possible for us to conduct our clinical trials, we can understand why there have been problems recruiting and retaining study subjects.

These are simple, low cost techniques that study subjects have indicated they appreciate in surveys and polls. They don’t ask for a lot, and these simple practices can make the difference to people. Doing our best to provide the best Customer Service can boost Patient Recruitment and Retention – it certainly couldn’t hurt!!

Sponsors, sites and other stakeholders can help to make the experience of study volunteers as positive as possible – much better than standing in line to buy an over- priced sweater from a rude saleswoman at your local department store.

About the Author
Sherry Reuter is President of Sherry Reuter & Associates, LLC, a consulting firm that focuses on the conduct of clinical trials, Site Selection, Study Start Up, Training, and Patient Recruitment and Retention. Sherry may be contacted at or 203.775.6031.

Image: 89studio /

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