Standardized patient walkthroughs in the national drug abuse treatment clinical trials network: Common challenges to protocol implementation

Holly E. Fussell, Lynn E. Kunkel, Dennis McCarty, Colleen S. Lewy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Training research staff to implement clinical trials occurring in community-based addiction treatment programs presents unique challenges. Standardized patient walkthroughs of study procedures may enhance training and protocol implementation. Objectives: Examine and discuss cross-site and cross-study challenges of participant screening and data collection procedures identified during standardized patient walkthroughs of multi-site clinical trials. Method: Actors portrayed clients and "walked through" study procedures with protocol research staff. The study completed 57 walkthroughs during implementation of 4 clinical trials. Results: Observers and walkthrough participants identified three areas of concern (consent procedures, screening and assessment processes, and protocol implementation) and made suggestions for resolving the concerns. Conclusions and Scientific Significance: Standardized patient walkthroughs capture issues with study procedures previously unidentified with didactic training or unscripted rehearsals. Clinical trials within the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network are conducted in addiction treatment centers that vary on multiple dimensions. Based on walkthrough observations, the national protocol team and local site leadership modify standardized operating procedures and resolve cross-site problems prior to recruiting study participants. The standardized patient walkthrough improves consistency across study sites and reduces potential site variation in study outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-439
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Clinical trial
  • Protocol implementation
  • Standardized patient
  • Substance abuse
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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