Icon taps Carnegie Mellon to help patients better understand trials

Baruch Fischhoff

When patients sign up for a clinical trial, how well do they understand the risks, requirements and restrictions that come with it? Icon ($ICLR), a global CRO that handles thousands of studies a year, is working with behavioral scientists at Carnegie Mellon University to study how investigators can improve the informed consent process.

The Irish-headquartered company is sponsoring a series of research projects led by Carnegie Mellon professor Baruch Fischhoff, an expert in cognitive psychology. The goal is to better understand communication barriers between scientists and patients in clinical trials, developing improved methods along the way, Icon said. The CRO is hoping to test, measure and validate methods of explaining trials with an eye on maximizing patient trust and making the enrollment process work better for all parties.

"We are looking into ways to help patients make well-informed decisions about whether to participate in clinical trials," Fischhoff said in a statement. "Our research will take advantage of advances in behavioral decision research and information technology to design and evaluate approaches for ensuring that patients understand the potential risks and benefits of joining trials."

Once the studies have been peer-reviewed, Icon intends to publish them in the public domain, hoping their conclusions will have positive effects on informed consent around the industry.

The CRO is particularly focused on what the effort can do for its Firecrest technology, which bundles investigator-training and patient-support software for trial sites. Icon believes its offering can improve compliance and quality in the all-important interactions between site staff and participants, and the company intends to update its services based on the results of the Carnegie Mellon studies.

- read the statement

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