Rochester Clinical Research recently had the privilege to attend the SCRS Diversity Summit in Austin, TX. We attended numerous informative sessions on the state of diversity in clinical research. Although identifying & retaining patients remains a challenge, our team found it telling that recruiting patients that are representative of the diverse population targeted by the drug/device is at the top of mind, despite the everyday challenges of patient recruitment & retention.

This conference marked RCR’s inaugural reception celebrating diversity in clinical research. We had the honor to cohost this event with and Black Women in Clinical Research. Both organizations are leaders in their respective fields, and we feel honored & humbled to have gotten the opportunity to bring together so many like-minded institutions and individuals under one roof to celebrate the mission of bringing diversity to clinical research.

Please read below our top three takeaways from the conference.

There is a distinction between the need for diversity & diverse patient populations

A more diverse population of volunteers is required to accurately represent the patients targeted by a drug, therapy, or device being studied. The FDA said as much in their guidance published earlier this year. However, once you’ve enrolled a diverse population, sites & sponsors often forget to consider the variance in cultural customs and preferences for interacting with providers. Therefore, enrolling a diverse population is only the first step. It is paramount to understand your (hopefully exceptionally diverse) patients, then customize your approach and communication style to engage and retain them.

Diversity considerations start with the protocol

If the protocol calls for the use of a multitude of electronic devices and apps and simultaneously requires including a diverse population, geriatric population, or folks in lower socioeconomic status, then perhaps an electronic device requiring an internet connection and technical know-how isn’t the optimal choice. Ultimately, sites must adhere to the protocol. Therefore, the target population needs to be considered during the protocol design.

Consider ethnicity & socioeconomic status when engaging volunteers

It’s easy to think technology is indiscriminate, but unfortunately, technology puts some groups at a disadvantage and creates a communication divide that sites must bridge to engage their volunteers effectively.

Different cultures have different communication norms and practices. For example, the Hispanic population frequently uses WhatsApp rather than iPhone Messenger, and the Asian population might prefer to communicate via WeChat. Therefore, sites must consider their target audience and reach them on their preferred communication platform to more effectively engage and thus retain their patients.