How We Can Help Improve Diversity in Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are the lifeblood of the medical industry. Without these trials, there is no way for the intrepid doctors and researchers in medicine to find out what doesn’t work, what does work, and why it works the way it does. The length of time it takes to set up a trial, get funding, get staff, get access to all the data you need to even think about beginning, run all the necessary tests, collate the trial data, and present findings can be years. It’s a considerable amount of very, very hard work, and we wouldn’t have any of the modern medicines or procedures we have without it.

Decentralized clinical trials are currently in vogue because they make patients’ lives easier and increase trial diversity, but this is only one way to improve diversity. 

Diversity is absolutely key to the ultimate success of these trials: without it, the data collected throughout the trial will be decidedly one-sided and not represent enough of the population to show how the medicine or procedure really works. Thankfully, researchers have realized the discrepancies that a lack of diversity allows for and now make every effort to collect as diverse a set of results as possible. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Diversity in Staff and Researchers

A good starting point is to ensure that every study has both an ethnically and racially diverse set of doctors and researchers. Medical staff’s ethical or racial status does not make them either better or worse at their job, of course, but it does welcome an ethnically and racially diverse set of patients. It can be scary and challenging to submit yourself to a clinical trial to begin with, but it is made harder still by feeling alone in the trial like no one fully understands your needs or beliefs and how they may impact or be impacted by the trial. Diverse staff will act as ambassadors for a diverse set of patients.

Invest Time into Creating Relationships

Any community-based clinical trial will require that the community actually has enough trust in the process, the staff, and the investors to be a part of the trial. Underserved communities, in particular, need to understand that they are more than just a set of results or a bottom line to the trial. This community will need to see long-term healthcare solutions implemented, beyond the end of the trial, to feel that they can invest their time.

Provide Support

Patients need to feel supported when they receive medical care in general, but specifically when they are part of a trial in which the results are not yet proven. Put yourself in their shoes: they have a condition for which they need treatment, but this trial in its current form may never lead to anything that can help them. They are placing a lot of trust in the trial staff and processes: they will need to feel heard, cared for, and supported if they are to make it through the trial. Underserved communities have a history of being neglected and unheard by the medical field: change that perception instead of feeding into it. Bringing all kinds of communities into the fold will provide your study with information diverse enough to make it an accurate one.

No one can communicate well if they do not feel supported. If you are not providing enough support, clear communication, and understanding to the patients in your trial, they won’t trust you enough to share the honest details of their experience. If you aren’t getting honest answers from them, the data in your study will be highly skewed, and the study simply will not be accurate enough.

Wrap Up

Though the medical community has been somewhat exclusive in the past, they are now aware that this is a failure and not in line with its duty of care. The understanding and acceptance of the fact that diversity is key to any kind of medical advances that benefit all communities and not only the ones who can afford that medical care is now at the forefront of the minds of doctors and researchers. There is a lot of damage yet to be repaired and many studies yet to be conducted to make up for the deficit in understanding, but we are on our way!

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