Communication training program for clinical trial recruiters

Health communication /

Clinical trials, the gold standard to develop and assess new treatments, are impeded by a low rate of available patients willing to participate. Lack of accrual is caused by a number factors related to patient circumstances, physicians’ willingness to discuss trials with patients and systems-based difficulties. Issues with communication plague clinical trial recruitment and retention, and are particularly acute during interpersonal interactions between medical professionals and patients. In addition to impacting accrual, poor communication prevents patients from making informed decisions about study participation, with patients accepting or declining the opportunity to join a trial without fully understanding important information about the study. Physicians and other medical professionals (such as research coordinators) who recruit patients for clinical trials and research studies may benefit from receiving communication training designed to navigate these challenges. However, few clinical trial communication training programs exist, and none focus on specific communication skills. The present study describes the development, implementation, and evaluation of an empirically based pilot communication training program grounded in Communication Accommodation Theory that was designed with the ultimate goal of obtaining true informed consent from patients as well as increasing accrual to clinical trials. The 1h 45m training was successful in improving several key verbal and nonverbal communication behaviors from pre- to post-test evaluation, including mirroring behaviors and the use of facial expressions, such as smiling. Overall, 14 of the 15 participants who completed both the pre- and post-training assessments reported the training to be very useful for their professional development.