Recruitment and retention are a perennial problem for the trials sector, causing contract research organisation (CRO) to continually seek out new ways of reaching and maintaining contact with patients.
In the last few months a number of companies, notably CenterWatch, TrialX, goBalto and Pfizer through its partnership with Private Access, have set up online systems to connect CROs with patients to help address the issue.
However, such methods do not address the problem of contacting patients who do not have internet access or indeed the difficulties associated with maintaining lines of communication during ongoing trials.
Julie Oimoen, project manager at Axiom, said the firm's new service is designed to address these difficulties and explained that the short message service (SMS) will be provided to clients for two specific applications.
She told Outsourcing-pharma that: “For patient recruitment, this will initially be directed to the younger populations for study specific requirements. Healthy subjects, 18 -35 years of age would be a good example of a potential audience.
“For patient retention during the course of a study, text messaging will be used for such things as appointment reminders, treatment reminders and things such as well being updates.”
She also stressed the approach has a global reach, and explained that: “Use of SMS technologies is far more advanced outside of the US, so we hope to capitalize on both markets. Huge population centres such as India, Latin America and China are emerging markets where adaptation of this technology is growing.”
Initially, potential study subjects will have to opt-in to the scheme and report a particular ailment or condition they have. However, Axiom also plans to use a range of marketing and web 2.0 approaches to access new patients as Oimoen explained.
“We will reach this potential audience through traditional methods of outreach such as media advertising, referral networks and web optimization.
“We will also use sources such as social networks and ailment specific communities to reach new potential subjects. This allows for opt-in, permission based contact.”
Nevertheless Axiom is realistic about the services’ potential and the time it will take to build momentum. “As with any emerging technology, forecasting the level of demand is dependent upon many factors.
“Some markets won’t apply, some potential patient populations may not grasp this technology, not to mention regulations are still being developed for this. Much like the adoption of email, we perceive the use of SMS to grow steadily for the right audience.