Key Facts about Communicating Trial Results to Study Volunteers

These facts and figures demonstrate the need to provide Lay Language or Plain Language Summaries to study volunteers. CISCRP’s Communicating Trial Results program engages sponsors and investigative sites and helps to fulfill the ethical obligation of researchers to inform study volunteers about what was learned from their participation in a trial. For more information on this important program or to request a custom proposal, please Contact Us.


  • Almost all patients want to know the results of their trial.

    A 2008 literature review found that, across 15 separate studies, a median 90% of clinical trial participants wanted to be told the results of their clinical trial. Looking across studies that assessed the psychological impact of receiving trial results, both psychological benefits and consequences were found; and, as the authors note, “the vast majority of participants reported feeling that it was important to receive study results” even if they experienced negative emotions. [Shalowitz and Miller. 2008. PLoS Medicine. 5(5):714-720.]

  • Almost no patients are being told their trial’s results.

    A 2012 CISCRP publication found, in a survey of 213 trial participants, that 96.7% wanted to know the results of their clinical trial, yet only 8.9% had been able to find out, even though technical results had been posted to ClinicalTrials.gov for over two months. [Getz et al. 2012. Expert Rev. Clin. Pharmacol. 5(2): 149-156.]

  • This lack of communication (and resultant lack of transparency) may prove a substantial barrier to the success of the clinical research enterprise.

    • A 2009 survey found that, “Most patients (364 [91%]) wanted to be informed about research findings or else would not participate in future clinical trials (272 [68%])”. [Sood et al. 2009. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 84(3): 243-247.]
    • At the conclusion of their participation, most trial participants feel they are “no longer valued” by researchers. [Getz. The Monitor. September 2008: 17-21.]
    • Unless they are deeply self-motivated to share their experiences, most study volunteers choose not to advocate clinical research among patients who are considering participation. [Getz. 2010. Appl. Clin. Trials. 19(5): 32-34.]
  • ClinicalTrials.gov is not intended to alleviate this problem.

    Results currently posted to ClinicalTrials.gov are not intended for patients or other lay audiences; rather, the expectation is only that these results would be understandable by an “educated reader of the medical literature”, as stated by the Director of ClinicalTrials.gov, Deborah Zarin. [Zarin et al. 2011. N Engl J Med. 364(9): 852-860.] The Secretary of HHS has authority to mandate lay-language results on ClinicalTrials.gov under the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 Sec. 801(J)(3)(D)(i).

  • Patients need lay language to understand their trial’s results.

    CISCRP research found that, after independently reviewing a lay language summary, 91.2% of trial participants felt they understood the results of their trial very well or somewhat well, and the portion who understood the basic facts of their trial increased by as much as 65.6 percentage points in a pre/post evaluation. Prior to reviewing a lay language summary, however, basic facts about the trial (such as why the research had been conducted) were understood by no more than 11% of patients. [Getz et al. 2012. Expert Rev. Clin. Pharmacol. 5(2): 149-156.]

  • Patients also want ongoing communication.

    In a CISCRP survey, 86% of trial participants wanted not only to be told the results of their trial, but also to be updated regularly by mail during the often extensive period of time between their last site visit and when trial results became available. Preferred frequencies ranged from 3-month to annual update schedules. [Getz et al. 2012. Expert Rev. Clin. Pharmacol. 5(2): 149-156.]



Creating a Standard Practice in Communicating Trial Results

Click to Read the Full Article

Click the image to the left to view “Creating a Standard Practice for Communicating Lay Language Trial Results to Study Volunteers”, our most recent publication about the Communicating Trial Results program in the journal Research Practitioner.

This article provides context for the critical obligation to provide lay language results to study volunteers, discusses efforts underway to establish standard practices to routinely deliver these results, and describes the anticipated impact of these programs.

Our research indicates that volunteers’ comprehension of the trial results improves dramatically after independent review of a lay language trial results summary, and over 90% of volunteers indicate satisfaction with their level of understanding.