News Brief: CTSA Program Supports Streamlined Clinical Trial Recruitment

Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) recently established the Participant Recruitment Service (PRS). Supported through NCATS’ Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program, the goal is to streamline and improve recruitment rates for clinical trials while maintaining patient privacy.

University of New Mexico researcher Richard Larson, M.D., Ph.D., with some of his colleagues.

Richard Larson, M.D., Ph.D., says support from the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program enables discoveries to improve the health and well-being of New Mexicans. (UNM Health Sciences Center Photo)

Slow recruitment is a common problem for clinical trials and often delays the launch of research studies. At UNM, recruitment is particularly challenging because of New Mexico’s largely rural and dispersed population. Before the PRS, UNM clinicians recruited participants primarily when they came to the clinic for care or treatment.

CTSC researchers developed the PRS as a centralized service available to all UNM investigators to facilitate participant recruitment in research studies, enable investigators to broaden their search for participants and enroll them in institutional review board (IRB)-approved clinical trials more effectively. Researchers using this service have access to CTSC Research Participant Advocates (RPAs), who are trained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), participant rights and cultural sensitivity. The RPAs receive an electronic medical record (EMR)-derived list of potential participants and call them to gauge their interest in the study. Because investigators cannot access health information or contact patients, the PRS protects participants against coercion.

“The UNM CTSC has demonstrated that it is possible to query the EMR for the purposes of clinical research recruitment in a manner that is respectful of patient privacy rights and fully compliant with applicable laws,” said Richard Larson, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator of the UNM CTSC.

Over the past year, investigators have used the PRS to contact more than 1,300 potential participants, with approximately 530 agreeing to receive further contact.

“Accrual of participants to trials has increased tremendously in the nearly two years since PRS was launched,” Larson said. “We are seeing about a 25 percent increase in accrual rates per year,” he added.

Posted May 2016