March 15th, 2017

Patient Centricity in Clinical Trials Explained, Pt. IV


The final installment of our four-part series on patient centricity in clinical trials: emerging technologies and best practices for patient engagement.

In Patient Centricity in Clinical Trials Explained, Pt. III, I outlined how sponsors, trial coordinators, and CROs can leverage personalized marketing tactics and patient education in order to bolster awareness among their target demographics.

In Part IV, I’ll be discussing evolving patient expectations and preferences in the digital age, and how to leverage emerging technologies in order to enhance the overall patient experience and improve the efficacy of your recruitment and retention efforts.

mHealth and Remote Patient Monitoring

As consumer smartphone and tablet usage continues to soar, a growing number of Pharma companies are investing in mobile health – also known as “mHealth” – pilot programs that extend across the entire drug development process. Patients expect seamless, convenient access to their own health data and key trial information, and the mobile platform is perfectly suited for the task.

On a similar note, a growing number of trials are now leveraging wearable technologies in order to align patient needs with investigator site capabilities, which in turn has led to increased efficiency and significant cost reductions. Remote patient monitoring tech can measure vital information while patients are off-site – including pulse, skin temperature, light exposure and even drug adherence – thereby reducing the number of in-person appointments and the amount of strain on individual sites.

Transportation Solutions

Despite improvements in telehealth and remote monitoring technologies, participants will still have to show up for in-person appointments at various points throughout the trial. Unfortunately, transportation remains a key barrier to access for many – especially when the trial involves elderly or low-income patient demographics. In fact, recent surveys suggest that more than 50% of patients who were considering participating in a clinical trial had to opt out due to transportation-related issues.

In an effort to address this longstanding issue, a number of trials are partnering with ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to help bolster patient retention and speed up approval timelines. For example, Continuum has teamed up with Lyft to offer free transportation to eligible patients who are actively enrolled in trials with its partners. According to Lyft Account Executive Omar Nagji, the venture gives trial coordinators the ability to “leverage the Lyft network and schedule and pre-schedule rides in advance.” What’s more, the technology allows you to “centralize billing, so they [patients] don’t necessarily need a smartphone. They can’t change the destination as well. You have more transparency and more data points around those patients.”

Other Notable Patient-Centric Tech Initiatives

A recent NIH article points to a number of innovative technologies and platforms designed to make trials more patient-centric than ever before – I’ve outlined a few interesting examples below:

  • VitalPatch: Vital Connect and Medidata developed a wearable biosensor that leverages advanced algorithmic and sensor technologies to provide “continuous measurement of electrocardiogram grading, respiratory rate, skin temperature, heart rate, physical activity, etc.”
  • Reg4all: an interactive database developed by Genetic Alliance (with support from Sanofi) serves as an effective “matchmaker” for patients and clinical trials. The platform empowers patients by allowing them to decide which groups do or do not have access to their personal health data.
  • Treato: a data mining company that monitors patient conversations within forums and support groups on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Using a combination of natural language processing algorithms, advanced analytics, and custom “patient language dictionaries,” sponsors are able to glean invaluable insights into the patient experience and mindset. They can then use those insights to focus their efforts on the trial elements that really matter to patients, thereby improving the ROI on their recruitment and retention efforts.

At the end of the day, if we want to improve the overall efficiency of clinical research, we need to recognize one key concept: today, it’s the patients who are in control – not us. As such, trials need to start investing heavily in patient-centric technologies, personalized marketing, meaningful communication, and data transparency. Put simply, it’s what the patients want. Unless we as an industry adapt our practices to meet their evolving needs and expectations, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see any kind of measureable improvement now or in the future.