Overcoming the blocks to successful clinical trials

Female doctor analysing liquid in test tube

This article is sponsored by Evoke.

Dominic Elliston, Managing Director of Evoke Galliard and Evoke Incisive Health, shares his take on how effective clinical trial communications is the key to expediting the delivery of new and extraordinary treatments.Dom Elliston

Tell us about yourself, Dominic.

My name is Dominic – most people call me Dom – and I’m Managing Director of Evoke Galliard and Evoke Incisive Health, both of which sit within the wider Evoke group. I’ve worked in the healthcare policy and communications space for over 20 years now. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of different pharma, biotech and NGO clients by delivering highly effective policy and communications solutions. 

If you had to sum up the business in a sentence, what would you say? 

As today I’d like to focus on Evoke Galliard and our clinical trials offering, I’d say – we’re an award-winning healthcare communications agency specialising in scientific storytelling. 

In the longer version I’d go on to explain that within Evoke Galliard, our services include clinical trials communications, media relations, issues management, patient collaboration, digital communications and social media engagement, scientific and medical education, and corporate and internal communications.  

Essentially, if you’ve got a story to tell, we’ll help you reach your audience. 

What’s that got to do with clinical trials? 

Often the opportunity to accelerate the time it takes for new innovations to reach patients comes down to a handful of pivotal moments in a clinical trial. Many of the most common challenges faced when running clinical trials can actually be solved with effective communications. 

Can you give us an example? 

Sure. Your readers will be all too familiar with this fact – 86% of trials fail to meet their recruitment targets. Even worse, one in five don’t recruit any participants at all 

Why? Well, often, in fact, 85% of the time, potential participants simply have no idea about the trial even existing. Then for some, if they do happen to hear about the trial, they choose not to take part – because they don’t understand the ask. Whether it’s spreading the word to time-poor healthcare professionals or ensuring that patients understand precisely what they’re signing up for, there are key moments in the early stages of a clinical trial where timely, effective communication has huge benefits.  

Beyond recruitment, how else can companies engage with patients to help ensure a successful trial?  

Patient collaboration is something we care passionately about. By working with patient councils, we can bring patient-powered solutions to every challenge along the clinical development pathway, from R&D development to market access. 

If we focus on trials specifically – patient satisfaction is critical. Patients who feel valued and involved make informed decisions about their care options. By listening to, and working with patients, we can create solutions that maximise clinical trial recruitment and retention.  

Another area where patient engagement is key, and a real priority, is diversity and inclusion. We know that regulators are set to increase scrutiny of trial populations, because without diverse participation, it’s impossible to ensure a drug is safe and effective for all who may benefit from it, regardless of gender or race. Our approach takes into account the deep mistrust some communities feel towards healthcare, builds authentic connections with communities through all stages of clinical trial development, and delivers clear, and culturally bespoke, communications. 

What do you most enjoy about working in the clinical trial space? 

The fast-paced variety! There’s no doubt that time is almost up for the traditional R&D model, which is undergoing seismic change right now. I find that exciting.   

Let’s look at the last few years – Covid-19 upended many clinical trials. Lockdowns, travel restrictions… it all added to the pressures already faced by participants and investigators. But it also opened people’s minds to trying out new solutions, and often these were digital. That’s something we have embraced not only as a company, but also for our clients – helping to identify and utilise new digital platforms to reach key audiences, and drive the adoption of new tools that reduce patient burden and maximise engagement. 

Covid-19 undoubtedly changed the world and how we work, but what’s going to be the next challenge? We work with our clients to help them anticipate change and safeguard their R&D pipeline. Whether that’s through scenario planning, working with patients to advocate for policy change, or identifying contingency plans for disruptive environments, we’re ready to support. 

What would you say to anyone not seeing the levels of recruitment and retention they are hoping for? 

Firstly, know that you are not alone in this – even the best designed and well-intentioned trial can struggle. Half the challenge is understanding where any ‘blocks’ lie. Together with our broad network of specialists, we can help identify the blocks if you don’t already know them.  

Then as experts in knowing how and where to connect with people, be they patients, investigators, healthcare professionals or communities, Evoke Galliard can help you overcome the challenges to change the uptake and impact of your trial. I’ve touched upon five key areas where we can have the most impact: timely recruitment, patient satisfaction, diversity and inclusion, digital strategies and providing continuity against a shifting landscape. We’ll consider each of these and shape a plan accordingly. 

Patients deserve options and we want to help bring these to them. There is no better place to direct efforts than at these crucial trial stages where it can be make or break, so do get in touch and no matter how big or how small the challenge, I’m confident we can help. Contact us at  Galliardclinicaltrialcomms@ashfieldhealth.com. We’d love to hear from you.

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