On Thursday, February 24th, eight healthcare professionals from a coalition of clinical trial companies gathered on Twitter. Together, they were led through a series of questions about the impact, future, and value of decentralized clinical trials (DCTs) by HCL Technologies.
Medable’s own Tyler Pugsley was one of eight professionals, answering questions from HCL and the live audience together in a new Twitter series known as “Straight Talk.” The blog below serves as a recap of key insights from their discussion.
Question 1 - How big a role will virtual/decentralized clinical trials play in future pharma R&D?
The group stated that virtual trials are here to stay now, having made a foothold in the industry prior to 2020, and becoming mainstream as a direct result of COVID. Thus, they will continue to play a vital role in the future of trials.
When it came to discussing the role they will continue to play, many stated that DCT has a directly positive impact on trial access, as they expand the patient population pools out of specific geographic regions, and into the national level. Others discussed the benefits of passive data, and it’s combination with TeleHealth. Used appropriately, each has the ability to provide a clearer picture of a patient, their health, and how they’re progressing through a trial.
Finally, some highlighted the added benefits of speed, and reduced costs that come with the embrace and proliferation of services like TeleHealth, direct to patient labs, and more.
Question 2 - In what ways is the technology to support such clinical trials (DCTs) evolving?
The panel noted that technology is often a tool for removing barriers and improving communication with current solutions making trials more patient-centric, and opening access to anytime, anywhere clinical trial participation.
For instance, wearables have evolved to become smaller, less cumbersome, and better at passive data collection during the last few years. Other technologies have focused on closing the gaps between clinicians and patients, with real-time data helping clinicians understand how to facilitate ongoing patient engagement and manage health conditions.
Medable’s Tyler Puglsey, VP of Business Development and Growth laid out his vision for the future, as he believes the way we perceive patients will change over time to see them more as consumers of trials, and less participants.
Question 3 - How has COVID-19 changed the industry’s approach to adopting virtual/decentralized clinical trial platforms, instead of more traditional electronic data collection platforms (EDC)?
Here, many were quick to point out that COVID-19 seemed to remove many of the barriers towards DCT adoption almost overnight, noting that the pandemic highlighted what the industry could have looked like for some time.
Additionally, participants responded with the real world concerns brought on by the pandemic, noting that patients were unwilling to go onsite in many instances. The result? Televists, remote monitoring and more have become the “new normal” for many studies, as they provide an effective and safe way to interact with patients.
Question 4 - How can an organization transition to decentralized clinical trials at enterprise scale across its entire clinical research portfolio.
With this question, one panelist noted that the true barrier that must be overcome for enterprise scaling is culture. Focusing on technology alone, others suggested organizations begin by leaning into key components of DCT, such as online eConsent and eCOA that would allow for greater digital data collection.
Finally, some noted that these processes must be directly integrated into both the organization’s infrastructure and key processes in order to see the true benefits of data, workflow, and speed.
Question 5 - What long-term effect will such clinical trials (DCTs) have on drug development?
Many panelists noted that patient centered designs met with technology that increases convenience and mobility are here to stay. While many saw long-term gains in improving patient recruitment, engagement, and trial data.
Others hoped to see the downfall of trial failure due to patient recruitment and dropout issues.
With perhaps the clearest take on the industry’s future, our own Tyler Pugsley cut straight to the core of the issue, stating that “Let's break it down to the core objective: Speed to safe and effective drug approvals.”