Patient recruitment specialist BBK Worldwide has announced its RSG Arrive clinical trial travel program has reached the milestone of facilitating 20,000 trips. Launched in 2012, the program is intended to put clinical trial participation within reach of more patients by offering ground transportation, air travel, hotel bookings, visa procurement, and other resources.
Outsourcing-Pharma spoke with Mike Johnson, senior director of patient engagement services with BBK Worldwide, to discuss the RSG Arrive, the significance of the milestone, and plans for the road ahead.
OSP: Could you please share a little bit about your RSG Arrive travel program—how and why it started, what it is, and what sets it apart from other solutions offered by other companies?
MJ: We launched RSG Arrive in 2012 after seeing an immediate need among our clients for a patient- and site-centric travel solution. It was clear that travel not only posed a burden to patients and site staff but was a barrier to participation, particularly for rare disease clinical studies. We developed the program to support simple to complex patient travel – from ground transportation and hotel bookings to international air travel and visa procurement.
RSG Arrive is managed by concierge specialists, rather than travel agents. They are experienced in understanding all the ramifications of a request, not only as it relates to arranging a travel itinerary, but also how to ensure the itinerary supports patient health, safety, and compliance. Their expertise, commitment to quality assurance, and trouble-shooting skills set the program apart from others. They are invested and understand the impact their efforts can have on a patient who may have no other treatment options than clinical research.
Our concierge specialists help study staff think through all the necessary considerations for a patient who may need extra assistance, more time transferring flights, ensuring patients have the necessary documents for cross-border travel. And, they analyze the collective experience of all patients in the study to anticipate travel and other considerations as a patient progresses in their disease and study participation, and as world events – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – radically change the travel and support landscape.
In addition, our concierge specialists create the supportive relationships with site staff that relieve some of the added burden we’re now seeing with decentralized solutions.
Another key differentiator is our flagship technology, TrialCentralNet, which provides site staff with a single platform to manage all travel-related services as well as ancillary services such as medication delivery.
OSP: You recently reached the milestone of 20,000 trips made by patient participants. What does that figure represent, and what does it say about you and your clients?
MJ: It’s a moment for us to reflect on the impact the program has had on thousands of patients and their loved ones worldwide – how it has increased access to care and made clinical trial participation a reality for so many.
RSG Arrive’s success reflects sponsor willingness to embrace a patient-centric approach to clinical trial travel. Our clients have demonstrated their commitment to supporting patients with services that improve the clinical trial experience.
The milestone is also a credit to the study staff. Once they are introduced to the program and understand its capabilities, they rely on it to support patient needs. Patients too – once they use RSG Arrive for their first visit, they continue to use it for the remainder of their visits. Ultimately, reaching 20,000 trips is a testament to the collaboration we have with our clients, the relationships we have with the sites, and the enthusiasm patients have for the service.
OSP: Could you please tell us a bit about how COVID-19 has changed and complicated clinical trial travel?
MJ: It’s made it unpredictable, requiring a lot of out-of-the-box thinking and flexibility. For instance, flight inventory can become scarce at times, especially internationally, so we have to be prepared with other options, such as an extended stay which would require long-term housing and possibly a visa extension.
We’ve also seen an uptick in ground transportation. Many patients have been opting for a longer car ride rather than risk a crowded airplane. We’ve also taken measures to ensure the highest level of safety for patients traveling by car. We adopted CDC hygiene standards early on, mandating more frequent disinfection of vehicles, removal of literature and beverages, and required drivers to wear masks and gloves at all times.
BBK only uses professional, vetted, and fully insured drivers, which is the only way to ensure these measures are in place. Uber or Lyft may say their drivers do so, but there’s no verification and therefore no guarantee.
COVID-19 also forced us to pivot quickly. For instance, when Brazil went into lockdown, we had to find a solution that would support patients required to remain at home. Our specialists quickly implemented a medication delivery program. Medication was packaged at the site and then shipped directly to the patients’ homes using ground and air methods. The success of this effort ensured that participants were able to remain compliant with the protocol.
OSP: Can you share any information about other plans for RSG Arrive? I understand you recently added meal delivery to patients and families—do you have anything else planned in the near or distant future?
MJ: Yes, our newest offering is RSG Meals, which provides prepared meals to patients and their loved ones. Meals are prepared and delivered to the study site if a patient is there for an all-day visit. Or for patients arriving for an extended stay, we welcome them with a prepared meal. Again, this is about meaningful engagement at key touchpoints in the patient journey.
We continue to expand RSG Arrive, most recently with medication delivery and home health visits. Our data shows the positive impact that these types of patient support services have on clinical trial enrollment, engagement, and overall satisfaction so we will continue to expand our product offerings in anticipation of patient and site needs.
OSP: Do you have anything to add?
MJ: I think the biggest thing I want to leave everyone with is that the RSG Arrive travel program is not just booking a flight or scheduling a ride but is a top-notch service with a dedicated concierge team with critical thinking and problem-solving skills for an ever-changing study landscape.