4 Technology Trends Driving Changes to Clinical Research

By: | March 10th, 2017

Image Credit:Flickr/Brother

Clinical research has changed considerably in the last several decades. While many of the most recent developments have focused on ethical considerations and rights of trial participants, rapidly advancing technology has changed the way that clinical trials are conducted. Thanks to technological developments such as mobile devices, artificial intelligence, and more, clinical research is more streamlined than ever before, while simultaneously creating a less expensive, more effective, and more standardized research environment. From recruitment through data collection and on to analysis, technology is influencing every aspect of the clinical research process.

What are these trends? Following are just a few that are changing the landscape of clinical trials.

Trend #1: Wearable Devices

Data collection has always been a significant hurdle in clinical trials, but the introduction of low-cost, medical-grade wearable devices is making that process easier. These devices can transmit accurate, real-time data to researchers, allowing them to more closely monitor subject progress, the efficacy of treatments, and identify potential problems before they become serious.

Trend #2: BYOD

Like wearable devices, BYOD is changing the way that researchers collect data in clinical trials. Whether it is a true BYOD study, in which participants use their own mobile devices to submit data, or the devices are provisioned by the study sponsors, BYOD is showing promise in terms of improving data collection. Rather than printed journals, which rely on patient memory and willingness to make notes regularly, a mobile study application makes it easier and more convenient to submit data. Not to mention, using a mobile device reduces some of the common problems with written logs, such as unnecessary information and inaccurate data keeping. In fact, BYOD increases the value of most eCOA and ePRO solutions by not only reducing the cost of provisioning devices, but improving the value of the data collected.

Trend #3: Big Data

Big data is a significant trend in just about every industry today, and with good reason: there is an estimated 25 quadrillion bytes of data created every day. By using an eCOA solution, researchers are able to collect huge amounts of data about study subjects to draw more accurate conclusions. Big data is also becoming a more integral part of clinical research recruitment, as researchers are able to mine data to find the most appropriate study participants, something that has long been a challenge.

Data mining is also becoming a key part of the research process. For example, one company monitors conversations on social media and in patient forums related to specific conditions and treatments, and then mines that data for insights that can be used by pharmaceutical companies. By looking at conversations taking place worldwide, and using big data analytics to draw conclusions, researchers gain insight into the reality of patient lives and put those insights to work in drug development.

Trend #4: Web-Based Recruitment Tools

There is an overall shift within the world of clinical research to make the entire process more patient-centric, and provide patients with more insight and control over their participation in trials. Evidence of this trend comes in the form of sites like clinicaltrials.gov and others, where patients can look for clinical trials that may be appropriate and take that information to their doctors. Patients can also opt to join specific registries or have their information shared in recruitment databases, giving them more insight into the trials that are available and control over their own participation.

There is no doubt that new technology is changing clinical research, and as many would argue, for the better. While it may be some time before we see completely electronic trials, since most trials do require an evaluation by a qualified medical professional, we are most certainly moving in that direction. That being said, given that more than half of cancer trials are cancelled due to low participation, anything that can increase trial participation and attract qualified subjects is a step in the right direction. Technology is making it easier for anyone to participate in research, while also more effectively identifying the right interventions and participants. And this can only improve the overall effectiveness of research, and ultimately, the availability of effective and affordable treatments.

Marshall Smith

Technology, engineering, and design enthusiast.

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