January 17th, 2018

How Patient Centricity and Digital Technologies Are Improving Clinical Trial Outcomes


Patient centricity has become a best practice for clinical trials – here’s how to use digital tech to make it happen.

All kinds of forces – from regulation to scientific research to insurance – are pushing clinical trials toward adopting patient centricity as a core tenet of trial design. This overwhelming sea change isn’t a coincidence; it reflects the reality that more patients are utilizing the tech available to them to take treatment research and decisions into their own hands, putting the patient experience front and center when it comes to development costs and research.

If costs and science are compelling patient centricity, digital technologies are helping to facilitate it. They’re offering new, richer, more convenient and potentially more accurate sources of patient data, helping to understand patients’ experiences as well as the course of their conditions. Trials can use these technologies to shift their efforts toward patient centricity, ensuring that qualified participants get the information they need to self-qualify and ultimately enroll in a trial.

Here’s how patient centricity and technology are working together to improve the experience and outcomes for patients and sponsors alike.

Patient-Relevant Outcomes

The first step that sponsors and CROs have to take to develop patient-centric trials is ask themselves whether they’re designing trials for patient-relevant outcomes. What really matters to the patients who will be taking a drug or undergoing treatment? And does trial design incorporate that information?

For example, the goal of many Parkinson’s drugs is to reduce the telltale tremors and limb rigidity that accompany the disease. But Parkinson’s patients also care about improving sleep, reducing constipation, and improving motor function. If clinical trials don’t record data points about those symptoms, the drug won’t address those patient needs.

Why should this matter to sponsors and CROs? Because when drugs improve patients’ quality of life in recognizable ways, patients more frequently adhere to medication regimens and improve more quickly. As insurers move toward patient outcomes as a primary indicator of effective treatment, better outcomes mean better reimbursement.

Trial Design and Recruitment

Once sponsors and CROs have identified patient-centric goals for their studies, they must then reach out to recruit and solicit feedback from potential patients. The truth is that few patients know about or actively seek clinical trial opportunities. The burden lies with trials to put relevant information in front of those potentially qualified users.

Fortunately, technology tools are making this process easier by the day. Web-based patient networks, nonprofits, and advocacy groups have developed online patient-matching portals to more easily connect patients with relevant studies. Search and social media advertising channels allow trials to precisely target age groups, locations, and keywords to get in front of potential patients looking for medical information. Tools like Apple’s Research Kit collect data from thousands of smartphone users who may be eligible for trials, enabling mass recruitment efforts that aren’t possible through traditional advertising channels like radio, print, or TV.

To maximize the impact of these digital marketing tools, sponsors and CROs should ensure that their web presence for each trial is intuitive, informative, and user-friendly. Websites should be optimized and highly intuitive to navigate, give potential patients clear information about their condition and the study, and make it easy to request additional materials or self-enroll.

Patient-Centric Tech and Retention

Sponsors and CROs can improve retention by using patient-centric technology to make the patient experience more convenient, comfortable, and responsive. The biggest leaps forward on this front lie with remote monitoring, telehealth, and wearables, which reduce the number of mandatory site visits and give trials unprecedented real-time data about a patient’s health.

Wearables in particular offer great promise when it comes to patient centricity. These increasingly sensitive, accurate, and discrete devices can send continuous data streams back to the trial, helping it understand the course of a disease and monitor flare-ups in chronic conditions. This kind of data could help trials personalize treatment plans for patients with specific diseases and lifestyle, but on a larger level, it could inform the design and execution of future studies.

Adapting to patient centricity is ultimately key for the pharma industry’s survival. As the industry shifts toward a focus on patient outcomes, trials will need to take patient input into account when designing trials in order to maintain acceptable rates of recruitment and retention.