DEI Series — Educating Clinical Research Practitioners Through Video

Recently, CISCRP partnered with WCG to create a video for researchers and study staff that emphasizes the importance of diversity in clinical trials. In addition to educating the public, raising awareness among research professionals about the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DEI) is critical to increasing cultural competence and understanding of participants’ needs.

You may have read our post about how videos are becoming a key tool of health literacy, and how clinical research could benefit from more videos communicating information in an accessible way. In this post, we dive into our creative process for producing a video with that objective in mind.

We were delighted to collaborate with WCG on this video. WCG partnered with CISCRP to produce this video because of our expertise in educating the public and clinical research professionals about the importance of diversity in clinical research. Like CISCRP, WCG is committed to helping ensure that the public gets the most effective and safe treatment possible. 

Because of that urgent need, WCG were very excited to work with CISCRP on addressing this topic. We know this engaging video collaboration will help energize researchers, and especially site staff, to bring more diversity into their trials.

To see the video, click here.

Research and Creative Planning

As with any complex project, whether you’re writing a novel or baking a cake, it’s important to plan every step in advance. However, for this project, assessing our audience’s needs, perceptions, and general level of cultural competency would determine how we structured the tasks ahead – so we started there.

The purpose of this video was simple: to encourage clinical research professionals to take tangible actions to ensure their trials had diverse populations. Given our experience developing educational materials on diversity in clinical research by collaborating with patients, their communities, and the public to understand their concerns and needs, we knew the key messages researchers needed to see and hear. Delivering that message in a way that will have an impact was the challenge.

Clinical research professionals may already know about the importance of diversity in clinical research and may even know about the available tools and practices to improve their trial’s diversity. So, how could we convince them to make more of an effort to invest in and implement these tools and practices?

We certainly didn’t want to bore them with information they already knew. Instead, we decided to focus on an impactful narrative to give them that extra push and reinvigorated perspective. And we had to do it in under 3 minutes.

Script

We decided on an animated video that portrayed a realistic scenario: patients from a diverse background whose prescribed treatments were not as effective or tolerable as demonstrated in the less diverse study populations during clinical trials. The storyline focuses on one patient to begin with, then shifts to a larger patient population who all realize that the clinical trials for the treatment they needed did not include patients from their respective communities.

As each patient asks their doctor some tough questions, treatments disappear from the shelves of the pharmacy shown in the animation:

“Could my race affect how this drug works?”

“Was the drug tested on women like me?”

“Could my weight be why this drug didn’t work?”

Then in the final scene of this part of the video, the problem is summed up by a disappointed patient:

“I think I understand. They didn’t test this for people like us.”

After the scenario, the narrator addresses this problem directly to the audience. It was important that the messages were not received as a critique of researchers—as we say in the video, there’s already so much good work they’re doing. Rather, we wanted to bring this subject to the top of their minds and say that by taking steps to ensure diversity in their trials, we can avoid situations like the one they just watched.

The script went through several drafts which included reviews from CISCRP’s team, our WCG collaborators, and subject matter experts on DEI in clinical research.  Each round of feedback included more voices and perspectives from folks in the clinical research world. As a result, each draft became more engaging, appropriate, and relatable to our intended audience.

For example, the original plan was to follow one patient. In the final script, we decided to combine the stories of five diverse participants. Then we realized that our characters’ names were not diverse. At first, they were named common names, which likely wouldn’t represent the diverse groups that are underrepresented in clinical research. We also ensured we represented the doctor, a “Dr. Smith,” from a white man to a black woman.

Key Learnings

In early drafts of the video animations, while the characters had different skin tones, they didn’t have other aspects that represented diversity. Something important we all have to keep in mind is that diversity comes in many different forms—from some of the more obvious things, like race, ethnicity, sex, and gender, to more specific details like health conditions, weight, and even lifestyle. So, we made a few subtle tweaks to represent diverse bodies, appearances, and cultural appearances.

Also, in choosing the voice-over actor, we settled on someone who represented a diverse population to add credibility to the messaging.

Some of the considerations went beyond diversity. We wanted our video to feel real, because the scenario we crafted is something that unfortunately happens too often. Given the prevalence of this issue, we also wanted the video to demonstrate sensitivity towards the difficult situations participants often face.

For example, in early drafts of the video, the doctor was smiling throughout, even as she learned that her patients were suffering. Not only is this not realistic, it appeared insensitive and even offensive. Still, we had to find the balance between making character emotion powerful while making sure they didn’t act like children’s cartoon characters.

Finally, once we were done tweaking the thematic elements of the video, we polished the presentation to a fine, professional gloss. Over the course of three drafts, spread out over weeks of review, we gave feedback on the timing of edits, the tone and speed of the voice actors through specific sections, and the subtle connotations of the animated characters’ movements. All of this was to ensure that this video was produced to the highest standards.

Never call it a day

As we’ve mentioned in other posts, the health literacy process does not stop here. We want to learn how effective this video is, and what we can do to improve our communication and education in future projects. Whether we’re making content for a professional audience or for the general public, the insights we gain on any given project accumulate and inform the production of future projects.

Written by Scott Finger, Senior Editor – Health Literacy, CISCRP

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