How Technology Can Improve the Patient Experience in Clinical Trials

By Lily Dobberteen

Running and managing clinical trials, at the most basic, is about creating a foundation to get the best possible data. While a great deal of thought goes into recruiting the right patients and developing the most effective protocols, the clinical research space is still catching up when it comes to embracing new and innovative strategies. While it makes sense that making things simpler and less intrusive for patients can lead to better compliance and better data, study managers and clinicians still struggle to keep patients engaged. This patient engagement is even more relevant today, in this “new normal” of COVID-19.

What Makes Patient Engagement Difficult?

First we’ll discuss the challenges sites have with keeping patients engaged. The systems for collecting patient data can, themselves, be an obstacle. For many sites these systems are antiquated and include data recordings and reports from disparate sources – for example, some computer assessments mixed with hand-written reports filed and stored in cabinets. Add to this the burden of doing multiple assessments per day, per week, or per month and managing different types of data ranging from imaging to blood draws and more. The use of technology to provide a single source of truth for all patient data in clinical trials has, unfortunately, lagged behind other industries. While we can use simple phone apps to pay bills and buy movie tickets, study managers have been trying to corral data for large groups of patients and from numerous sources for too long. There is a better way.

The Power of a Single Touchpoint

Patient retention is a top priority in every clinical trial. Patients who drop out are typically lost for some predictable reasons:

  1. They lack a fundamental understanding of what is required of them during a trial
  2. They don’t possess a solid system of organization that allows them to fit the requirements of the study into their already busy lives

The first issue can be traced to the already discussed challenges that sites face. Because sites are stressed with a variety of responsibilities and numerous patients, they can’t always give each patient the individualized attention they may need to fully comprehend what’s needed from them. The second issue is one common to most people – patients have a lot going on. Many patients deal with one or more chronic health conditions, which tax both their time and energy. On top of their health issues and their participation in the clinical trial, patients still have jobs and families, they worry about getting their kids to school and practice on time, all while trying to fit in clinical visits, virtual visits and taking their medications on time. Just like any average person forgets things, patients can forget to take meds, forget when they took the meds or forget to record their data.

But, again, patients are people and in today’s world that means there’s a high probability that they have a smart device on them at all times. AiCure’s Patient Connect turns those smart devices into a full-time assistant. Patients receive regular reminders and guidance on taking their medications, and the app records each dose providing sites with a single and complete source of data. The app also creates an always-on link to the study team, allowing the patient to receive support when they need it, often eliminating the need for additional clinic visits. This can be a breath of fresh air for patients who no longer need to worry about remembering each dose, whether they took it correctly or if it was recorded correctly. Sites get the benefit of complete data, all in one place. Additionally, the Patient Connect app is loaded with Digital Biomarker functionality. Using facial and voice recognition, the app can help to flag issues that would be missed by phone calls or diary reviews. 

A Focus on the Patient Helps Us All

Positive patient experience can go a long way to improve data through better retention and care plan adherence. A patient who feels supported is more likely to remain engaged through the course of the trial. Technology can be extremely useful in helping patients to manage their study participation along with the litany of other life responsibilities. At the same time, it can ease the burden for sites, allowing them to have more meaningful interactions with patients. All this leads to a happier, more engaged patient pool. For more information, Register Here for my upcoming webinar, Real Talk: Leveraging Technology to Improve the Remote Patient Experience.