Preventing dropout works !

As some of you might know, I have co-created a digital platform which, among many other benefits, facilitates the enrollment procedure of patients for clinical trials and assesses dropout risks. Of course, I have been presenting and detailing my platform to many CROs, hospitals and health-related organizations.

Almost every time, my interlocutors look at me, slightly puzzled and definitely skeptical, and say: “Assess dropout risks? Great idea, but do you have proof that it works?”

Well, how about this, for instance 👉

This article is based on a recent study carried out in Denmark. It scientifically analyzes that low dropout rate in a virtual clinical study of atopic dermatitis is achieved through weekly reward-based personalized genetic lifestyle reports. DNA sample collection was performed once in the beginning of the study as a mandatory study task to continue the study. The DNA sample was used to generate 8 DNA lifestyle reports that were unlocked each week as a reward for completing study tasks. The DNA lifestyle reports covered the following topics: Alcohol, Caffeine, Gluten, Injuries, Vitamin D, and Healthy weight.

It turned out that the retention rate for this study was 96% (53 out of 55 subjects completed the study), much higher than the average rate for clinical trials, where it is often estimated that up to 30% of patients drop out of the study before its completion.What does this result tell me?

🌐 It is obvious to clinical trial experts, but maybe not so much for patients or laypersons in general: it is perfectly possible to organize a fully remote yet successful clinical trial, where participants do not have to go repeatedly to a research site. Of course, not every clinical trial can be set up this way, but thanks to technology, it is becoming a genuine and viable option;

🌐 Unfortunately relieving some of the logistical burdens from patients (and researchers!) does not solve the dropout risk problem. For this study, trial organizers seem to have relied on a basic rule of dropout prevention: anticipate patients’ needs. Namely, that clinical trials have to be mutually beneficial: patients give time, effort, privacy and need something in return: a contribution to medical progress, of course. But in this case they get an extra and much appreciated benefit: in this case, useful information in the form of lifestyle reports giving them reliable health tips.

🌐 I could not finish this piece without mentioning my pet topic, the mandatory human touch in technology. I find it here in the fact that the reward is personalized. It underlines the fact that patients are still considered as unique human beings who deserve a unique approach….

What is, according to you, the main success factor in this study’s low dropout figures?