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A Clinical Trial is Like a Restaurant?

  • March 11, 2014

  • From the Rare Disease Report: by James Radke

    A Clinical trial needs to be more like a restaurant.  Let me explain….

    I’m here at the Patients As Partners and have listened to several excellent presentations explaining different methods  that companies are using to help engage patients in the clinical trial process. All the presentations have been great but the one that really sparked conversations among the audience was a presentation near the end of the first day.  It was given by a person with no clinical trial experience. Nor clinical experience. In fact, she was not even involved in the healthcare industry.

    Susan Salgado, PhD, Managing Partner at Hospitality Quotient is in the restaurant business. Hospitality Quotient owns restaurants. And as a business, they understand their profits will only materialize if they have a lot of repeat customers.  And in their business,  customers will only be repeat customers if the staff in the restaurant make the customers feel good about eating at the restaurant.

    Dr Salgado said this concept was best summed up by a quote from Maya Angelou who wrote:

    People will forget what you said…
    People will forget what you did….
    But people will never forget the way you made them feel.

    Susan Salgado, Hospitality Quotient and Valerie Bowling, the Conference Forum at Patients as Partners

    That mindset is the key to many popular restaurants.  And Dr Salgado believes that mindset needs to be how the pharmaceutical industry should perceive the patients in their clinical trials. If a patient feels good about being in a clinical trial, they will adhere to the rules and regulations of the trial, they will be on time, they will go to every check up, spinal tap, blood draw, etc.  If the patient truly feels the staff are creating an environment that shows they are all working together to advance science, then the patient will comeback. In clinical trials, that is measured by the retention rate. In the restaurant business it is called a repeat customer.

    Dr Salgado’s presentation was very well received by the audience of clinical trial professionals in the room. Unfortunately, the quantitative and regulatory aspects of clinical trials make it very difficult for the process be a fun, let alone be a personable affair. But, if companies want to retain patients and make sure they comply with all of the rules and regulations throughout the clinical trial, it may help to take a few pointers from other altruistic businesses.

    On the plus side, companies are making great strides towards engaging the patients more. Just like a restaurant can improve its service based on customer feedback, pharmaceutical companies are  listening to patients and trying to have them be more involved in the clinical trial process. There were many examples of that on display at Patients As Partners. For example, people from the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP), Quintiles, Sanofi, Genentech, FDA, Eli Lilly, etc, were all at the conference and provided amazing examples of how they are focusing more on the patients when developing and conducting their clinical trials.

    So will the patient ever be at the level where they will give the pharmaceutical executive a tip for their great service?  Not a chance … but it is something to strive towards and in the long run, it is probably a good mindset to have.At the Patients as Partners event, Susan Salgado, PhD, Managing Partner, Hospitality Quotient discussed how clinical trials need to be more like restaurants. The Rare Disease Report covered the conference and Susan’s presentation.

    View more Rare Disease Report Article here.

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