Breaking the mold: Patient-centricity in psychiatric clinical trials

By Maggie Lynch

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/KatarzynaBialasiewicz)
(Image: Getty/KatarzynaBialasiewicz)
Researchers and clinicians agree that patient engagement is imperative to address the challenges of psychiatric clinical trials, as is the reduction of the stigma attached to such conditions.

Craig Shimasaki of Moleculera Labs, a company that specializes in understanding neuro-psychiatric conditions and their root cause, told us that centering a trial on the patient is key: “Patients play a vital role in helping us understand the nuances of the disease,”​ he said.

Patient-centricity in psychiatrics also can further clinical and social understanding of conditions.

“Empowering patients to have a choice in their care and the direction of their participation in trials, along with the ability to involve family members as the patient desires allows opportunities to meet the patient preferences and needs during participation,”​ said Miaesha Campbell, associate director of patient recruitment at Medpace.

Clinical trials focus on understanding how participants react towards treatment. Yet, patient reaction to psychiatric treatment can be hard to understand. Thus, innovation becomes necessary to gain a better patient understanding. Such innovations requires “out of the box” thinking, said Shimasaki.

“Some organizations are developing apps that can monitor the patient and their symptoms on a daily and hourly basis,” ​he explained. “Because feelings that wax and wane, and symptoms that may be triggered by certain types of stimuli, are helpful to know more about the biology of the disease.”

Katherine Eaton, director of clinical trial management at Medpace told us that the technology has been making an impact on the ability to collect useful data that centers on the patient. She said, “We have adjusted [data collection methods] by making our research opportunities more public on the internet as well as working directly with advocacy groups to build patient communities and awareness about a variety of diseases.”

Data, said Shimasaki, which are collected through digital innovation platforms such as these apps, can uncover nuances and help paint a clearer picture of the patient’s condition. Eaton further explained, “theaddition of patient centric technology can be used to help secure compliance.”

Involving the caregiver

In clinical trials, feedback often is not coming solely from the participants themselves, but also the caregiver, and is particularly important in psychiatrics where caregivers can use broad strokes to record behaviors that a patient may not be able to present.  

Tom Thompson, VP of medical affairs, neuroscience and psychiatry at Medpace said, “Patient centricity efforts can also be directed to the caregiver as they are often motivated to help seek out treatment options for their loved one.”​ However, it can be difficult to engage patients in patient-centric activity as participants can be unmotivated to pursue treatment.

Breaking the mold

While clinical trials need strong innovations to keep track of the developments, movement towards acceptance takes a role in the ability for patients to engage in trials.

Thompson reiterated the importance of stigma reduction in the role of psychiatrics. “While there is still a stigma associated with mental health conditions, the growing acceptance has helped individuals become more open about their diseases, helping patients to build a community that will allow researchers to collaborate on new potential treatment options,” ​he said.

Psychiatric patients may have been seen as a quiet population with unreliable input in the past, but with recent innovations both in technology and advocacy the movement towards centering treatment development around the patient will hopefully not only break the mold of trials, but the breakthrough for treatments.

Related topics: Clinical Development

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