How Virtual Trial Technology is Changing the Face of Clinical Research

Jim Corrigan | |

Technological advancements have been delivering benefits across the clinical development lifecycle for decades. But now, their role in clinical development is even more amplified. In light of COVID-19, the industry is utilizing new virtual trial technologies to continue their important studies and keep all stakeholders safe. In this interview, Jim Corrigan explains ERT’s role in delivering these advancements and how virtual trial technologies will continue to benefit patients, sites, and sponsors well after the pandemic.

Why do you think technology is the key to innovating better health?

Technology and innovation are common buzzwords that are prevalent in all industries. However, we need to remind ourselves of the purpose of innovative technologies: that is to increase the efficiency, productivity, and/or convenience of a process or activity.

Consider the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry as they develop new medical treatments:

  • Lengthy patient recruitment periods
  • High clinical trial patient dropout rates
  • Reliance on patient access to investigative sites for key data collection
  • Questionable data quality that leads to longer study closeout
  • And more…

Now, think about the technological advances we’ve seen over the past decade, such as the Internet of Medical Things, Artificial Intelligence, high-precision medical sensors, etc. It’s easy to see how incorporating these and other reliable, purpose-built technologies into clinical development can help trial sponsors turn existing obstacles into opportunities and speed up their clinical development processes.

In fact, a recent industry survey showed that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 82% of clinical trial sponsors are adopting new technologies to keep their trials on track; of those, a significant majority are implementing telehealth systems and integrated patient devices that enable patients to ‘meet’ with investigative sites and provide critical study data, remotely (Figure 1).

This is what we do at ERT and we’re passionate about it. We identify areas across the clinical development lifecycle that are contributing to clinical trial delays and determine how, through proven technologies, we can improve them. Whether it’s helping keep patients better engaged during lengthy trials, or speeding up study start and closeout through pre-built assessment libraries and higher quality data capture, or enabling patients to meet with investigative staff virtually and submit important safety and efficacy data from the comfort of their homes, digital solutions are key to eliminating obstacles and delivering the efficiencies that trial sponsors need to accelerate clinical trials and get new treatments to the patients who need them, sooner.

Virtual Clinical Trials

Figure 1:  Integrated patient devices and telehealth systems are already primary data capture sources in today’s virtual trials (Source: ERT Survey, May 2020).

How do you approach innovation?

ERT has always been at the forefront of delivering innovative technology solutions that help our customers accelerate clinical development. This hasn’t changed during the pandemic. If anything, COVID has amplified our approach to informed decision-making and calculated risk-taking related to new product introductions. With the industry changing at a record-setting pace, we’re meeting with our customers regularly and incorporating their input to ensure the virtual trial capabilities we’re delivering continue to meet their needs during this unprecedented time.

For example, we’ve accelerated our innovation pipeline to expand our virtual solutions across endpoint collection modalities and to increase the optionality our customers need to successfully execute their clinical trials. Simultaneously, we’re expanding our partnerships and collaborations with technologies that further increase flexibility and information capture. All of these are viewed in the context of the patient journey, meaning that we deliver innovations that improve the patient experience and increase their participation and engagement in clinical trials.

How will technologies used in the era of COVID benefit the industry post-pandemic?

One of the few positives from the pandemic is the forced opportunity to operate differently.  All clinical trial stakeholders have been forced to adapt, and in many instances have been surprised by the enduring benefits of virtual trial technologies. I see a post-pandemic scenario with more virtual visits, which will minimize the need for patients to travel to investigative sites, and increased device integrations with consumer and medical data capture tools, all of which will simplify patients’ participation in clinical trials and improve their overall engagement. By doing so, the industry will benefit from more streamlined clinical trials, expanded patient engagement and accelerated clinical development times.

Jim Corrigan is the President and CEO of ERT.