The U.S. clinical research enterprise in nursing homes was unprepared to mount clinical trials in nursing homes to address urgent questions relevant to prevention and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We identify priorities essential for establishing a supportive environment for future clinical trials in nursing homes.
Two cross-sectional online questionnaires were administered between January-February 2021. One was administered to nursing home providers, researchers, and policymakers; respondents rated the importance of attributes of researchers, facilities, leaders and staff for conducting clinical trials in nursing homes. Because importance may depend on trial type, respondents rated each attribute for efficacy trials (testing an intervention in ideal circumstances) and effectiveness trials (testing an intervention in “real world” circumstances). We calculated the attribute rating means and standard deviations, and used content analysis to characterize open-ended responses. The second questionnaire for resident family members and advocates included open-ended questions about nursing home research, and factors influencing willingness to participate.
The attributes rated as most essential for conducting efficacy and effectiveness trials in nursing homes are research team attributes, i.e., that researchers recognize regulatory constraints; understand and adapt to nursing home workflow; and work collaboratively with nursing home leaders to identify priorities. Resident and facility diversity emerged as essential for effectiveness trials; important dimensions included resident race, ethnicity and income, as well as nursing home urban/rural location, quality ratings, geography, staffing ratios, size, and profit status. Caregivers and resident advocates stressed the importance of communication among participants, researchers, and nursing home leadership and staff at all stages of a trial.
Developing a robust U.S. clinical research enterprise capable of efficiently mounting future clinical trials in nursing homes will require a reimagining of the relationships that exist between researchers, facilities, nursing home leaders, and residents, with a research infrastructure specifically focused on supporting and fostering these connections.
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