BBK Worldwide Survey Reveals Physician Support for Referring Patients to Clinical Studies

"Study Voices" Survey of Sponsors, Physicians, and Patients Dispels Referral Myths

BOSTON, June 24, 2019 — A new survey from BBK Worldwide (BBK), the patient experience, recruitment, and engagement leader, challenges the long-held notion that physicians are not willing to refer their patients to other specialists for access to clinical studies. The latest “Study Voices” survey – part of an ongoing series of surveys designed to shed light on key clinical research trends – features perspectives from pharmaceutical and biotechnology sponsors, physicians, and patients. The patient portion was conducted as part of BBK’s partnership with Health Union, a pioneer in online communities for people with chronic health conditions.

With more than two-thirds of physicians surveyed indicating they have referred a patient to a clinical study, and half of the sponsors surveyed assuming the exact opposite, the findings underscore the need for sponsor awareness and support for concentrated efforts to engage potential referring physicians during the recruitment stage of a clinical study. The survey results will be presented at the Drug Information Association Global Annual Meeting in San Diego, June 23–27, 2019.

Survey findings revealed that 53% of sponsors believe that doctors are unwilling to refer their patients to other specialists for access to clinical trials, while 69% of doctors said they had in fact referred a patient. The survey also challenged the notion that doctors are reluctant to refer because of concerns over losing the patient or losing revenue. In fact, 68% of doctors surveyed said the reason they did not refer a patient was because of lack of information about the protocol – only 9% were concerned about losing the patient or losing revenue. “It’s clearly a missed opportunity not to engage the physician community earlier in the process and educate them on the protocol,” said Matt Kibby, Principal and President, BBK Worldwide. “Solutions like BBK’s BIO Notifier® are just one way to enhance referral activity by engaging physicians who have expressed interest in referring patients for clinical study participation.”

Findings from members of Health Union’s online communities revealed that the majority of patients learned about a clinical study opportunity from their doctor – 35% of whom were referred to a different doctor conducting the clinical study. Among those that were not referred, 71% said they would still have wanted to participate if they had been referred to a different doctor. Lastly, of those that had been referred to a specialist for care in the clinical trial, 79% returned to their regular doctor for continued treatment and 11% continued to see both the study doctor and their regular doctor following the conclusion of the study. “Compelling on their own, the findings also allude to the importance of the physician-patient relationship. It seems that the better the relationship is – with more open lines of communication – the more likely the doctor will introduce clinical research as an option and the more likely the patient will participate,” said Kibby.

“This survey confirms what we see every day via interactions within our condition-specific online communities: many people with chronic health concerns are eager to learn about clinical trials, and healthcare providers are important influencers in patients’ decisions to participate in clinical research,” said Olivier Chateau, Co-Founder and CEO, Health Union. “Moreover, healthcare consumers – and, ultimately, Health Union – can provide sponsors with the unique perspectives and nuances of living with these conditions that they need to make their clinical trials more relevant and easier to recruit. Partnering with BBK on this survey and future projects will hopefully go a long way to further inject the patient voice into the clinical trial landscape.”

“The fact that more than a third of patients participating in clinical studies were referrals not only dispels the notion that doctors don’t refer, but it also suggests there may be room to increase that number,” said Kibby. “We just need to encourage doctors to continue to think about clinical research as part of the ecosystem of options for the patient’s healthcare.”

The Study Voices survey includes responses from 655 patients, 131 physicians, and 194 study sponsors, and it was conducted between April and June 2019.

About Health Union (

Health Union encourages social interactions that evolve into valuable online health conversations, helping people with chronic conditions find the information, connection, and validation they seek. The company creates condition-specific online communities – publishing original, daily content and continuously cultivating social conversation – to support, educate, and connect millions of people with challenging, chronic health concerns. Today, the Health Union family of brands includes 22 online health communities, including,,, and

About BBK Worldwide (

BBK Worldwide is committed to enhancing the clinical trial patient experience through a combination of services and technology-driven solutions that educate consumers, engage participants, unburden sites, and support sponsors. One of the few remaining corporately independent and full-service R&D marketing firms, BBK has maintained its position at the forefront of patient recruitment and engagement innovation for more than 35 years. An industry game changer, BBK’s patented smart technology TrialCentralNet® drives the company’s innovation while enhancing the patient journey and supporting the study community. Headquartered near Boston, Massachusetts, BBK has partners and offices across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.