Prepaid cash cards motivate clinical trial patients

Greenphire highlights its support of patient recruitment and retention

As the pharma industry makes its peace with the US Physicians Sunshine Act and regulatory reporting of “transfers of value” to healthcare providers—and as the same sort of transparency rules are coming into force in Europe—another transactional channel is getting attention: payments to clinical trial subjects. In this case, there is no specific reporting requirement for trail subjects themselves, but a similar business value to the industry spending rules—tracking and accounting for the trial subject payments—is compelling.

Thus, Greenphire (King of Prussia, PA) is choosing this moment to highlight its success with the ClinCard program, which uses patented payment technology similar to prepaid gift cards to dispense the reimbursements many patients get in carrying out clinical trials. The company has handled $200 million in patient reimbursements since 2008, representing thousands of investigator sites and over 400,000 patients, according to Jim Murphy, CEO. It has also been used in 25 countries.

Murphy says that the business started out as a service to principal investigators—doctors or researchers who might not have sufficient back-office support to handle the transactions easily. Over time, the service’s value for reports and audits back to trial sponsors—often pharma companies or their contract research organization (CRO) partners—became apparent. More recently, Greenphire began handling reimbursements for trial subject transportation and accommodations, when necessary.

Beyond reports and audits, however, the key value of ClinCard is the motivation it provides to trial subjects to start with, and stick to, the trial regimen. Patient recruitment is an endemic problem in the industry; and patient drop-offs during trials can seriously affect their progress. Murphy cites findings from the Center for Information and study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) that compensation is “the top factor that motivates study volunteers to continue to participate” in a trial. The ease of use of the cards—simply handed to a patient at predetermined points, and without the bother of check-cashing and the like—enhances that value.