March 21st, 2018

Mayo Clinic Finds 80% Increase in Clinical Trial Enrollment with IBM Watson


AI’s success in boosting clinical trial enrollment for breast cancer studies shows that a tech-forward patient recruitment strategy works.

A recent study from the Mayo Clinic confirms what many have suspected for a long time: artificial intelligence does indeed have the potential to dramatically improve patient recruitment. New research in partnership with IBM Watson for Clinical Trial Matching revealed an 80% increase in enrollment during breast cancer trials.

Patient recruitment is a continual sticking point in the drug development process, with 75% of trials failing to meet recruitment targets. AI promises quick, cost-effective, and achievable improvements in patient screening, recruitment, and retention when used in conjunction with other patient recruitment methods

Watson Empowers Mayo Clinic Physicians with Data-Driven Insights

According to IBM, the Watson for Clinical Trial Matching system “aims to accurately and consistently match patients to clinical trials for which they may be eligible.” The Watson AI uses clinical notes, pathology reports, lab information, and patient records as the basis for data-driven recommendations about which patients might fit a given clinical trial.

The Mayo Clinic study, launched in July 2016 to assist clinical research screening coordinators with finding eligible breast cancer patients – shows that this technology works. Watson matched more breast cancer patients to appropriate trials in less time than traditional recruitment methods.

“This has enabled all patients to be screened for all available clinical trial opportunities,” said Dr. Tufia Haddad, a Mayo Clinic oncologist. “The speed and accuracy of Watson and the team of screening coordinators allow our physicians to efficiently develop treatment plans for patients that reflect the full range of options available to support their care.”

The system is currently trained to support matching for breast, lung, and gastrointestinal cancers, but the Watson team has plans to expand the AI’s capabilities. The analytical capacity provided by Watson during the Mayo Clinic’s breast cancer clinical trials was so successful that the clinic plans to expand their partnership with IBM to detect other cancers going forward.

AI’s Role in a Technology-Forward Patient Recruitment Strategy

Watson’s success in identifying eligible patients in clinical trials indicates that AI will be a powerful technological tool for patient recruitment going forward. Only 5% of patients worldwide participate in the clinical trials they’re eligible for, meaning that there’s a sizeable gap that technology, including AI, can fill.

Despite the success of AI applications, it’s only one piece of a successful patient recruitment strategy powered by technology. Trials should be taking advantage of all the opportunities available to them, including digital marketing on search and social channels, especially Facebook. These platforms offer powerful targeting tools that pinpoint potential patients at the moment they’re looking for trial information.

By adopting impactful technology as it presents itself, clinical trials can stay abreast of their recruitment issues and gradually improve recruitment and retention outcomes.