Research has shown that using metaphors to explain randomisation could make it easier to recruit patients for clinical trials. A study outlined in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that using simple language might be the best approach. Benign metaphors were discovered to be particularly effective when explaining randomization to patients who did not have a high level of health literacy.
Randomised controlled trials (commonly referred to as RCTs) are an essential part of research in many fields, including cancer research. Despite the importance of RCTs, the percentage of cancer patients who take part in such trials is fewer than 5% in the USA. Among ethnic and racial minorities, the figures are even lower. The recent study found that approximately 75% of all investigators fail to achieve their recruitment goal.
Different Linguistic Approaches
The study’s researchers found that one of the main hurdles to getting patients to take part in RCTs is the way in which randomisation is presented and explained to potential participants. In an attempt to improve patients’ understanding of randomisation, two different strategies have been tried. The first uses plain language, with short sentences and simple non-technical language. This has been found to make it easier for patients receiving a cancer diagnosis to understand their treatment options. The other method involved using metaphors. This method has been found to help patients understand previously unfamiliar concepts. Researchers have also discovered that making health information personally relevant to the patient can increase RCT participation.
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Researchers’ Hopes for the Future
The study’s authors say that their research could offer guidance on improving the informed consent process in future. Data was collected from 500 patients over 18 who had received a cancer diagnosis in the previous two years and who could both read and write in the English language. None of the participants had taken part in trials previously.
The patients were given information in a variety of ways – some with plain language, and some with metaphors (of two different types).