6 reasons patients drop out of clinical trials and 6 ways to fix it!

If you’ve successfully recruited patients for your clinical trial, but one by one, they begin to drop out, then this information could be for you.

Retention is a huge issue in clinical trials. Quite often, you’ll hear stories about successful recruitment, but that same success isn’t translated over to retention. That’s because there’s nothing stopping a patient from leaving a clinical trial once they’ve started, and unfortunately, many companies don’t think about their patients’ experience once they’re over the recruitment line. So really, it’s no surprise that some patients end up dropping out when their overall experience isn’t being considered.

The truth is, retention strategies are just as important as recruitment strategies, and it’s your responsibility to reduce the reasons they’ll want to drop out in the first place. You might be wondering, “how can I prevent patients from wanting to drop out?”. Well, the table below shows 6 reasons why patients drop out of clinical trials, and 6 solutions for you to help overcome them.



Money worries

Taking part in a clinical trial can put financial strain on a patient, and potentially their family. They could lose money due to taking time out of work, or the out-of-pocket costs of the trial, such as transport or even relocation, could have an impact.

Offer reimbursements

Ensure you offer financial reimbursements to patients as quickly as possible, as well as those who are accompanying them to the clinical trial.

You could also offer stipend payments to help those dealing with any potential financial loss through lost work.

Time conflicts

Understandably, patients will be concerned about the amount of time they’ll need to spend in a clinical trial. Clinical trials may conflict with other life commitments, such as full-time jobs or childcare/caring for others, and keeping on top of all of this could be difficult for them.

Be flexible with scheduling

The best thing you can do is provide tailored support, and be flexible depending on the patient’s needs.

Send notifications and reminders to your patients, and perform tasks at the patient’s home, workplace, or school, if possible.

Lack of understanding

Patients have a lot of information handed to them about clinical trials, and the terminology that’s used can sometimes be difficult to understand. If they’re struggling to understand information throughout the trial, this can have an impact on their experience.


Clearly communicate 

Accessible language, regular communication, and dedicated support for patients are key.

Make sure all patient documents are written and presented in a way that’s easy to understand, and that you’re on hand for support if they have any questions throughout the clinical trial.

Travel challenges

Travelling to and from the clinical trial site can be challenging for patients, especially for those in urban areas, the elderly, and patients travelling long distances.

Provide travel support

Consider travel services for your clinical trial. This offers support to patients who cannot travel to the site themselves, and is a reliable, organised way for them and their caregivers to get there and back.

Fear or anxiety

Clinical trials are a huge part of a patient’s journey, and there’s a lot to take in. Understandably, patients can go through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout a trial fear, stress, anxiety, and more. There may also be times when they need a boost of motivation to finish the clinical trial.

Engage and reassure

The key is to keep communicate regularly with your patients to understand how they’re feeling.

You might want to consider an app or virtual platform that enables you to keep in direct contact with your patients, so they have the support when and where they need it most.

Family commitments

Taking part in a clinical trial does not only impact the patient, but their family or caregiver too. For example, parents may need to be separated from their children, or one parent may need to attend site visits with their child, which they might have trouble doing so on their own or feel the impact of being away from their partner.

Engage family/caregivers

Engage with both your patient and their family/caregiver to ensure they’re informed at every step of the clinical trial.

Ensure that their family/caregiver can attend clinical visits and spend time together over longer periods of time.

Arrange home visits wherever possible, so patients can stay at home with their family/caregiver.

Keeping participants on your study should be a high priority for you

So, there you have it: a list of reasons why patients drop out of clinical trials, and what you can do to help stop that from happening. Clinical trial retention should be just as high a priority for you as recruitment, to ensure a seamless experience for both you and the patients.

Want to get in touch about improving your clinical trial retention? Reach out to us at hello@couchhealth.co and we’d love to chat.


Patient Retention

Megan Kelly

Psychology is Megan’s starting point for every communication, putting herself in the reader’s shoes to create clear, concise and impactful content. She’s always learning, and her passion for science and writing has found the perfect home in our team.

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