Paying Research Volunteers: How to be Participant-Centric

Ashley Toy
March 17th, 2020

The payment landscape as a whole has evolved a lot over the years, making it possible to make and receive payments in various ways. The clinical research industry must make an effort to match modern expectations, especially for payments such as stipends and reimbursements to study participants. Up until recently, these payments were almost entirely made in check form and would take several weeks, or months, after the visit occurred to reach the participant. This practice is becoming less common, not only due to advances in technology, but also because it isn’t a very participant-centric transaction. So, how can sites enhance patient-centricity in clinical trials?

Let Participants Choose from Several Payment Methods

Today’s participants have many different ways to make payments, therefore, we should offer them several options to receive payments. Rather than deciding for them, we should treat participants as decision makers and acknowledge that one size does not fit all. Giving your participants a choice means providing modern payment options while continuing to offer checks for those who prefer more traditional payment forms. Different lifestyles make certain payment methods more convenient and attractive than others. By incorporating each participant’s preference we don’t assume one particular method suits everyone.

Pay Participants Immediately

Typically, check processing delays each payment to participants by four to eight weeks. Making participants wait that long is not timely, especially for trial-related expenses they would not have incurred otherwise. Instead of letting that much time pass until participants receive payment, why not pay them at visit completion? Electronic methods can drastically speed up payments so participants walk away with “money in hand.” For example, if a participant chooses to receive funds via reloadable debit card, they can pick up the card on their first visit and each subsequent payment amount will load onto the card. By eliminating the wait time for a check to come in the mail, we can provide immediate gratification, making for a better overall experience.

Don’t Leave Participants Guessing

It’s hard to stay organized and remember all of the protocol-specific details when conducting many trials at once. That’s why an easy-to-use payment system helps site staff set expectations upfront with the participants based on protocol guidelines. This can come in the form of protocol-specific visit stipend templates and reimbursement allowances, providing instructions and insight into which reimbursements the participants can receive. Not only does this help pay participants much quicker but can also be used in communication with participants so they have the correct expectations.

Provide Visibility into Payments

In the past, study payments haven’t always been visible to participants. Providing participants with a web portal or mobile app as a resource to view funds and manage notification preferences adds another layer of convenience. They can use these resources to manage settings, such as receiving notifications of when they receive payments. Using a personal login, participants can securely enter their own bank account information, so the site never has to collect any financial information. In addition, offering participants support in case the card is lost or stolen, or for any other questions, helps resolve any issues and provides the answers they need.

Putting the participant first is a best practice in clinical trials and the payment and reimbursement process is no exception. Many sites are realizing the need to be more participant-centric with their payments by letting each research volunteer choose their payment method, paying participants much faster and keeping them in the know throughout the trial. These seemingly small things all add up, helping contribute to a better clinical trial experience for participants.

Looking to enhance your site’s patient-centricity in clinical trials with a participant friendly payment solution? Check out Forte Participant Payments.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 16, 2016.

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2 thoughts on “Paying Research Volunteers: How to be Participant-Centric

  1. Most of the clinical study sites in Africa do pay their participants cash upfront as a reimbursement for their time and transport expenses incurred.
    I cannot say that it is the best practice, but considering that technological advances in payment systems continue to roll out, these resource limited settings cannot move that fast to adopt these proven participant-centric payment systems. The participant retention seems to be based on the benefits they get from participation, like free medical care, sometimes a meal or two plus the transport refund.
    Africa still has a long way to go and it would be GREAT to see possible solutions developed that can apply to these resource limited sites.

    1. Hi Ivan,
      I absolutely agree! Like you said though, paying participants up-front is still a nice courtesy (rather than having them wait 4-8 weeks for a check to be processed and arrive in the mail when they may have incurred costs to get to the site). Thanks for sharing!

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