Clinician-to-Clinician Update Clinician-to-Clinician Update

New Efforts to Boost Study Participation, Improve Care

March 2016

Well-conducted clinical studies are essential for improving healthcare outcomes in the long term. Unfortunately, studies show that participation in clinical studies is limited. For example, only 2% to 4% of all adult cancer patients participate in clinical studies annually, and representation is even lower among elderly and minority populations.1 Low patient participation rates often prolong the duration of trials and delay the analysis or publication of results.2 They may also lead to early closure and failure of important studies.3 Two common barriers to study enrollment are most cited by patients: a lack of understanding about available clinical studies and the amount of time required to participate in studies.4, 5, 6

As stewards of an academic health center with a research mission, University of Minnesota Health leadership sought to improve access to clinical research in its newly opened Clinics and Surgery Center. The overarching challenge was to better inform patients about relevant research opportunities and to make participating in clinical studies easier.

— The online database StudyFinder allows users to search clinical trials by research area.

To inform patients about open clinical studies, the center has installed screens and patient-accessible interactive tablets, both of which display the latest news on ongoing studies. The tablets, available on the Discover Bars on each floor of the center, allow patients to easily access StudyFinder, the online database of University of Minnesota clinical studies. StudyFinder lets users search studies by name or condition treated. It identifies open studies, presents an overview of the study, and lets users contact principal investigators for further information. Access to StudyFinder has been shown to significantly increase patient participation in research studies (see Update, pg. 4). At the center, a dedicated research liaison is also available to discuss clinical studies of interest to patients

The Clinics and Surgery Center staff have also made efforts to make participation in research easier. Traditionally, patients in clinical trials often needed to be seen both in the clinic and in the research facility. They might have had to undergo separate blood draws, physical examinations, or even imaging studies, creating a major burden for patients. In the new center, staff have been trained to integrate research and clinical efforts. For the patient, there is one encounter at check-in, during examinations, at check-out, and for blood draws, imaging studies, and other tests.

When questionnaires are to be completed, research coordinators book consultation rooms for the same day as the clinical visit. The clinical and research study follow-up visits are designed to be booked together as well. Research activities are not charged to patients, and physicians and staff can discuss which visits are part of clinical care and which are for research purposes.


  1. Tejeda HA, et al. Representation of African-Americans, Hispanics, and whites in National Cancer Institute cancer treatment trials. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1996;88:812-816.
  2. Haidich AB, Ioannidis JP. Effect of early patient enrollment on the time to completion and publication of randomized controlled trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2001;154:873-880.
  3. Ehrlich PF, et al. Lessons learned from a failed multi-institutional randomized controlled study. J Pediatr Surg. 2002;37:431-436.
  4. Costenbader KH, et al. Factors determining participation in prevention trials among systemic lupus erythematosus patients: a qualitative study. Arthritis Rheum. 2007;57:49-55.
  5. Barnes M, et al. Exploring patients’ reasons for declining contact in a cognitive behavioural therapy randomized controlled trial in primary care. Br J Gen Pract. 2012;62:e371-377.
  6. Brown RF, et al. Perceptions of participation in a phase I, II, or III clinical trial among African American patients with cancer: what do refusers say? J Oncol Pract. 2013;9:287-293.
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