Patient engagement isn’t just a buzzword anymore. With the massive transformation clinical trials have gone through over recent years, it has emerged at the top of the values hierarchy and has begun to play a more central role in the development of new treatments. This makes sense: the primary goal of healthcare and clinical trials – a goal shared by researchers and by the companies like Medrio that support them – is to help patients live higher quality lives. How are we to achieve this goal without keeping those patients engaged and in the loop both during and after clinical trials?
Enhancing patient engagement doesn’t just help study participants – it makes researchers’ lives easier too. Patient recruitment and retention are two of the oldest and most stubborn challenges in clinical research. Take a look at these two stark facts:
• Two-thirds of studies fail to meet enrollment goals.
• Up to 30% of patients drop out of trials after enrolling.
The good news is that new technology is doing a lot to take on these long-standing challenges. At Medrio, our most recent contribution to this has been eConsent, an interactive tablet application that helps patients better understand trial requirements, risks, and their rights. But we’re just part of a larger, industry-wide campaign to improve the clinical research process and better serve patients. Let’s look at 5 of the most exciting patient-engagement developments happening in healthcare and clinical research today:
1. Siteless trials and mHealth
With the expectation of over 20 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, there are more and more opportunities for their use in clinical trials. Wearables and sensors for remote data collection are opening doors to exciting new possibilities by allowing participants to share clinical data without the necessity of a site visit.
Siteless clinical trials are showing plenty of potential. A recent phase 2b trial for acne showed promising results:
• Recruited 372 patients in just seven months – half the standard amount of time for that type of trial.
• Achieved a high degree of patient diversity – a persistent challenge in clinical research.
• Received exceedingly positive patient feedback. Many said they would participate again.
2. New platforms for patient engagement
Problems with patient adherence can also undermine trial results. To combat this issue, organizations are now taking action. One company has developed a platform that:
• Provides interactive tutorial videos and uses scanners to track when medication kits arrive and are returned.
• Utilizes high-tech blister packs to track the exact time when participants remove pills.
• Plans to expand its functionalities in the future to include smart device monitoring and other engagement tools.
3. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
VR and AR are on the rise in clinical trials as interactive ways to educate patients about treatment methods and to provide new solutions in trials involving pain management and rehabilitation.
• VR is enabling brain surgeons to increase patient comprehension by allowing patients to interact with 3D models of their own brains.
• VR is being used at a UK hospital to help stroke rehabilitation patients to gain confidence and measure how well their cognitive abilities are improving.
4. Patient data access
Last year, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new data-driven plan aimed at providing patients with greater access to their healthcare information. According to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the strategy will empower patients with the healthcare information they need to make more informed decisions.
Programs like this are now expanding. In February 2019, The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) announced a partnership with Apple to improve patient engagement for veterans and give them greater access to their health data via smartphone apps.
5. The patient voice in trial design
The patient voice can be captured through a variety of means, but social media is providing new opportunities for researchers to gain valuable insights. By taking note of patients’ input during the early stages of trial development, researchers can proactively address potential enrollment and retention difficulties. Pharmaceutical companies are starting to take note of what patients are saying online and leveraging this information for innovations in everything from trial design to patient recruitment.
For us at Medrio, it’s exciting to learn about these developments and what they mean for the future of public health – and contributing to the patient engagement trend, whether through eConsent, ePRO, or any of our other innovative products, is an important part of our mission. It’s through better patient engagement and innovation that we can look forward to a future with more seamless clinical trials that deliver high-value products to those in need on the shortest timelines possible.