Clinical Trial Enrollment Barriers and Patient-centered Approaches to Overcoming Them

By: Aprylle Canono

"In a landscape of advancing clinical trials, the imperative to overcome barriers and empower patients is increasingly evident. "

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Clinical trials stand at the forefront of medical progress, offering hope to patients facing life-threatening illnesses. Nevertheless, clinical trial enrollment rates have historically remained dishearteningly low. This blog explores the numerous barriers that patients face when considering clinical trial participation and outlines strategies to address these challenges. It also examines how researchers and organizations such as PRIMR can play a pivotal role in enhancing the patient experience during this crucial phase of their healthcare journey.

Common Barriers to Clinical Trial Enrollment

Barriers to clinical trial enrollment are multifaceted, encompassing procedural, structural, psychological, and cognitive challenges. Procedural barriers, such as ineligibility due to comorbidities or concerns about side effects, create hurdles for patients. Structural barriers, including financial constraints and logistical difficulties, add complexity to the situation. Psychological barriers, stemming from a perceived lack of support or cultural disparities, pose intangible yet significant obstacles. Cognitive barriers, such as mistrust or a lack of knowledge about clinical trials, can also deter patients. Recognizing these obstacles is essential to enhancing clinical trial recruitment and driving progress in medical research.

Why Patients Choose to Participate in Clinical Trials

Despite these formidable barriers, patients often choose to participate in clinical trials for various compelling reasons:

Access to Innovative Treatments and Interdisciplinary Care: Patients view clinical trials as a gateway to cutting-edge treatments not available through standard care. The interdisciplinary nature of these trials appeals to patients who seek comprehensive and effective healthcare.

Contributing to Medical Progress: Many patients participate in trials out of a desire to advance medical science. They understand their pivotal role in pushing the boundaries of medical knowledge and aiding future generations.

Alternative Care: For those dissatisfied with standard treatments, clinical trials offer a promising alternative. Patients hope to find better treatment options, higher quality care, and improved outcomes.

Close Medical Supervision: Rigorous medical monitoring in clinical trials provides patients with a sense of safety and assurance, reassuring them about their participation.

Limited Treatment Options: For patients with severe or advanced diseases, standard treatments may no longer suffice. Clinical trials offer an alternative path when conventional options have been exhausted, instilling hope in patients who see trials as a lifeline.

Personal Improvement and Empowerment: Some patients aim to personally benefit from the experimental treatment, seeking an improved quality of life and symptom management. They want to regain control over their health journey and actively engage in shaping their healthcare practices.

Patient motivations can significantly differ based on individual circumstances and experiences, underlining the nuanced nature of their decisions.

Overcoming Clinical Trial Barriers Through Patient-Centered Approaches

Navigating the landscape of clinical trials, patients continue to choose vital research participation. Overcoming these hurdles requires patient-centered strategies that streamline the trial process and empower informed decisions. 

These strategies include building trust, sensitivity to cultural nuances, comprehensive information delivery, fostering open dialogue, confirming understanding, and establishing ongoing communication. 

By embracing these principles of patient-centered care, researchers can dismantle barriers and empower patients in their clinical trial journey.

PRIMR's Role in the Clinical Trial Ecosystem

Within the challenges and opportunities of clinical trials, organizations like PRIMR play a vital role:

Clearing the Fog of Complexity: We understand that clinical trials can be daunting, often laden with intricate jargon and complex processes. We bridge this information gap by creating educational videos and simplified content that explain the intricacies of trials, allowing patients and their loved ones to embark on their cancer journey with confidence.

Enhancing Inclusivity: In line with the FDA's guidance for diversity in clinical trials, our multilingual patient video content addresses language and cultural barriers. By making resources accessible to a diverse range of backgrounds, we actively contribute to increasing diversity in clinical trial enrollments.

Empowering Informed Decision-Making: We do not stop at simplification. We empower patients to make informed choices. Through our educational content, patients gain a deeper understanding of clinical trials, which enables them to actively participate in decision-making alongside their healthcare teams.

Supporting Patient and Researcher Collaboration: By simplifying the clinical trial process, we foster a more collaborative environment. Researchers can effectively communicate with patients using our resources, and patients feel heard and understood, enhancing the overall experience.

In a landscape of advancing clinical trials, the imperative to overcome barriers and empower patients is increasingly evident. PRIMR's unique contributions in simplifying clinical trial terms, increasing diversity, and promoting informed decision-making for patients offer hope for the future of medical research. With the collective determination of patients and researchers and the support of organizations like PRIMR, we can break down barriers and embark on a path of progress in clinical trials.

To learn more about the basics of clinical research and clinical trials, visit this resource.


Comis, R. L., Miller, J. D., Aldige, C. R., Krebs, L., & Stovall, E. (2003). Public attitudes toward participation in cancer clinical trials. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 21(5), 830-835.

Unger, J. M., Vaidya, R., Hershman, D. L., Minasian, L. M., & Fleury, M. E. (2019). Systematic review and meta-analysis of the magnitude of structural, clinical, and physician and patient barriers to cancer clinical trial participation. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 111(3), 245-255.

Ford, J. G., Howerton, M. W., Lai, G. Y., Gary, T. L., Bolen, S., Gibbons, M. C., ... & Bass, E. B. (2008). Barriers to recruiting underrepresented populations to cancer clinical trials: a systematic review. Cancer, 112(2), 228-242.

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How does PRIMR specifically tailor its educational videos and materials to address the unique needs and concerns of various patient populations?

This is addressed by creating educational materials that are culturally sensitive and linguistically inclusive. PRIMR aims to bridge the gap between complex medical information and patients' understanding by producing content in multiple languages and incorporating cultural nuances into their information delivery. This approach ensures that patients from diverse backgrounds can access, comprehend, and utilize the information relevant to their healthcare decisions.

What specific measures does PRIMR take to ensure the accessibility and understanding of their resources for patients with different levels of health literacy?

These measures include using simple language, avoiding complex medical jargon, and incorporating visual aids and interactive elements into their educational materials. By doing so, they cater to a broad audience, ensuring that all patients, regardless of their health literacy levels, can benefit from the information provided. Close collaboration with the clinical trial team is also standard during the creation process of the video materials to ensure that the information distributed is both accurate and appropriate.

How does PRIMR facilitate the collaboration between patients and researchers, and what platforms or tools do they use to promote this interaction?

Collaboration is facilitated through a review process involving a network of patient advocates and doctors. By simplifying clinical trial processes and terminology, PRIMR helps ensure that researchers can effectively communicate with patients, making the clinical trial journey more collaborative and less intimidating for participants.