Health Equity in Clinical Trials: Patient Navigation Plays an Integral Role

Guardant Health Perspective  | Jul 13, 2023

Clinical trials are a critical step in developing new treatments and medications and a crucial tool for evaluating the safety and efficacy of existing treatments.6 However, for clinical trials to be successful, they must be conducted with a focus on equity and inclusion. Equity in clinical trials is integral to advancing research, ensuring positive patient outcomes, and promoting overall public health.1

Health Equity in Clinical Trials 

Equity in clinical trials means ensuring that diverse populations have equal access to and participation in clinical research. This includes individuals from underrepresented populations, such as women, minorities, and those from low-income backgrounds.1 The absence of these populations in clinical trials can lead to a lack of understanding of how treatments and medications will impact these groups, potentially leading to disparities in patient outcomes.2-5 

The Importance of Patient Navigation 

To achieve equity in clinical trials, it is essential to involve patient navigation services. Patient navigation is the process of guiding and supporting patients through the healthcare system, including the clinical trial process.8 Navigators can help individuals understand the benefits and risks of participating in a clinical trial, assist with obtaining informed consent, and provide ongoing support throughout the trial. Navigators can also help address barriers to participation, such as transportation, childcare, and time off from work.9-11

Patient navigation is vital for underrepresented populations, as they may face unique challenges in accessing and participating in clinical trials.7 For example, individuals from low-income backgrounds may not have access to transportation or may face language barriers. Navigators can help address these challenges, making clinical trials more accessible and equitable for all patients.2, 9-12 

Successful Clinical Trials 

In addition to improving equity in clinical trials, patient navigation can also improve the overall success of clinical trials. By providing support and assistance throughout the trial, navigators can help increase patient engagement, treatment plan adherence, and overall trial process satisfaction. This can lead to a higher rate of successful completion of trials and more accurate results.9-11 

In conclusion, equity in clinical trials is essential for advancing research and promoting positive patient outcomes. Patient navigation services can play a critical role in achieving equity by addressing barriers to participation, increasing patient engagement and satisfaction, and ensuring that diverse populations are represented in clinical trials. By working together, clinical researchers and patient navigation services can help advance medical research and improve public health for all individuals.