Bilingual staff boost Spanish speaker interest in trials: study

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

(Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/iStock via Getty Images Plus)
(Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/iStock via Getty Images Plus)

Related tags: diversity, Patient centricity, patient engagement, Patient recruitment, Clinical trials, SubjectWell

A survey by SubjectWell indicates that having Spanish-speaking research personnel increases interest in trial participation among Latino potential patients.

Having bilingual staff makes more Spanish-speaking people in the US more interested in participating in clinical trials, according to a survey run by SubjectWell. 

US Census data shows almost 42m people in America speak Spanish at home. That makes Spanish the second language of the US, spoken at home by 14% of the 309m people in the country. The widespread use of Spanish in the US-led patient-recruitment company SubjectWell to look into what it means for the clinical trials industry.

To generate data, SubjectWell ran a survey of 438 people, split roughly evenly between primary English and Spanish speakers, in the US from March to April 2022. The survey found differences between the two populations.

SubjectWell found that 73% of Spanish-speaking respondents are somewhat or extremely likely to join a clinical trial, compared to 66% of their English-speaking counterparts. The difference was driven by the larger number of Spanish-speaking people who are somewhat likely to participate in clinical trials, with 52% of respondents giving that answer compared to 39% in the English-speaking cohort.

The interest of the Spanish-speaking cohort in clinical trial participation contrasts somewhat with the situation in the real world. In its summary of the diversity of the studies used to support approvals last year, the US FDA said there “were many programs where representation from certain racial and ethnic groups was low​.” Across all approvals in 2020, Hispanic people made up 11% of the study population.

With Latinos forecast to make up 30% of the US labor force by 2060, up from 17% today, sponsors need to find ways to increase participation in clinical trials if they are to maximize enrollment in their studies.

The survey identified bilingual staff as a motivator for the Spanish-speaking population. If the study site had bilingual staff, 79% of respondents would be likely to participate, up from 73% without that statement.

Ivor Clarke, CEO, SubjectWell

Language barriers need to be addressed in the early stages of study design, just like other common patient burdens (e.g., transportation and missed work). Accommodating multiple languages goes beyond providing simple translations — bilingual staff can attract more patients from diverse populations​,” said Ivor Clarke, CEO and co-founder of SubjectWell.

Compensation was less of a draw for Spanish-speaking respondents. The likelihood of participation in the English-speaking group if compensated was 79%, compared to 70% in the Spanish-language group. 

Respondents without health insurance were less likely to be somewhat or extremely interested in clinical trial participation, leading Clarke to speculate that “they may need more factors to motivate them to participate​.”

We’ve found that the same engagement strategies that are important to any clinical trial participant will increase participation rates with diverse patients. Ultimately, to ensure a representative population, protocol design needs to offset the burden of participating in a trial against the value of that trial to the patient​,” said the CEO.

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