For clinical trial sponsors, staying on top of the latest innovations can be a challenge, especially in an industry historically slow to adapt to change. But experts warn of the risk of falling behind, especially in light of advancing technologies that are impacting clinical trial enrollment and engagement.
While you may not be ready to embrace the use of a virtual self-service hologram—greeting patients in the doctor's office with information about a clinical trial—there are a few key innovations that all clinical trial sponsors should keep on their radar. Below, we highlight three that are driving change.
Voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are making their way into the clinical research arena as companies explore ways to leverage them for patient enrollment and engagement success. Industry experts anticipate that voice assistant technology will be integrated into the clinical trial patient journey, providing enhanced convenience for patients and more robust data for researchers.
"We expect voice assistants to be used as early in the recruitment process as initial screening, as an alternative to traditional online screeners," says Aaron Fleishman, Head of Market Development for BBK Worldwide. "The potential is tremendous—from recording health assessments, reminding patients about appointments, and facilitating diary entries to fostering medication adherence, coordinating travel for study appointments, and answering study-related questions."
Clinical trial sponsors should expect to see voice assistant technology make its way into the marketplace over the next year.
Today's healthcare consumers want timely and convenient access to information. Their desire to monitor their own health has driven the demand for wearable devices like Fitbit and Apple Watch. According to Deloitte's 2018 US Health Care Consumer Survey, consumers tracked their health and fitness data two and a half times more in 2018 than in 2013. Within clinical research, we have seen the inclusion of wearables in several studies, and the number is expected to grow considerably in the next few years.
Experts foresee the potential for wearables to change how clinical trials are designed as they allow for remote, real-time data collection. Researchers can gain greater insight into participants' health with a continuous stream of data—including heart rate, sleep, and activity. Since data can be collected remotely, wearables may reduce the number of required site visits.
As sensor technology advances, the industry can expect to see more wearable sensor platforms designed to measure objective data related to specific diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Study-Specific Patient Portals
Consumers have been trained by online platforms like Amazon and OpenTable to expect immediate access to information. They have become accustomed to an "on-demand" model for many services that prioritize convenience, access, and transparency. Within the clinical trial marketplace, we're starting to see the emergence of dynamic patient portals that offer study participants similar levels of control and convenience.
Patient portals empower study participants with content and resources that inform, engage, and help organize the study experience. They can include everything from appointment reminders, visit overviews, and educational resources and videos to travel and reimbursement information, gamification, and study updates. Patients can communicate with study staff through direct messaging or email.
The biggest benefit to patients is that they can access study-related support and information wherever and whenever they want. Patients feel connected to the study community, fostering study compliance and long-term engagement.