by Shree Kalluri
The traditional process of paying stipends and reimbursements to participants is still a prevalent issue in clinical trials. This payment process has typically followed an outdated, manual model that rarely takes into account a patient’s lifestyle and personal preferences. Today, some of the most common or traditional payment methods used in clinical studies are often the least patient-centric.
In many clinical trials, participants are only provided with a single payment option, often in the form of a check. Patients can be left waiting anywhere from four to eight weeks before receiving a single payment. This is especially inconvenient, as many patients have to personally pay upfront, out-of-pocket expenses to get to the site. Additional expenses could also include lodging, childcare, meals and the cost of time missed from work. With this prolonged and slow payment model, participants could be on their next study visit before ever receiving payment from their previous visit.
Such inconveniences can cause frustration for patients, or backlash when their expectations aren’t met, causing them to feel left in the dark as to when compensation will be received. This extended wait time for payment can cause unnecessary financial hardships on study volunteers, preventing them from making it to site visits throughout the trial. As a result, participants can become disengaged or even withdraw from the trial due to dissatisfaction over the entire payment process. With no say over how they are compensated, participants are also given little to no visibility into when funds have or will be received, leading them to believe their time is not appreciated. In addition, study coordinators may be tasked with fielding calls from angry or upset participants inquiring about their payments – a preventable and unpleasant task.
Coordinators that should be focused on patient care can get bogged down in repetitive administrative duties, including the collection of receipts for reimbursements and the manual review and submission of requests for each payment across visits, participants and protocols. Of course, this not only affects study coordinators, but finance teams and sponsors, as well. Trying to keep track of stipend amounts and maximum reimbursements per visit can be difficult depending on the number of protocols being conducted, especially when managing them in a decentralized and manual way.
With traditional payment methods still widely used in clinical research, sponsors and sites alike need to shift their focus to adopt a more proactive, patient-centric process. Giving each participant a choice in how they wish to be paid and paying them in a timely manner can provide patients with some feeling of control and increase the likelihood of a positive clinical trial experience. Not only will focusing on the participant increase patient engagement and retention, but it can also help reduce inefficiencies while improving workflows for research organizations. As a result, taking a modern, patient-focused approach will create a win-win scenario for multiple stakeholders in clinical research.
Shree Kalluri is the Founder & CEO of Nimblify, a company he formed in August 2015 to pursue new, targeted technologies that make great strides in improving operations. Dedicated to improving trial outcomes by connecting stakeholders in clinical research in innovative ways, Nimblify’s technologies include Participant Payments, the Protocol Calendar Exchange, Research Resonance Network and Research Insights. For more information, visit http://nimblify.com/