Digital Transformation and the Next Gen Participant Experience

September 28 2022  

The clinical trial industry is hyper-focused on enhancing the participant experience. We’ve seen buzz words like “patient convenience” and marketing campaigns around “patient-centricity”. In fact, based on a recent survey Greenphire conducted on industry trends, 96% of sponsors who completed the survey agreed that “providing technology solutions for patient engagement can positively impact recruitment and retention.”

But what does an enhanced participant experience actually look like? And how can it be supported with technology?

Adoption of Participant-Focused Technology is Increasing

The use of technology in clinical trials has been commonplace for decades. However, over the past few years, the industry has driven an exponential increase in the adoption of tech focused on supporting participants throughout their trial journey.

The power of technology became clear during the pandemic, as organizations quickly developed tech platforms and mobile apps to address the challenges posed by COVID. However, the disruption of collaborative work and the speed with which these solutions were developed resulted in systems that were not always designed to be truly participant-centered.

Understanding the Participant Journey is Essential

Before an organization can develop a participant-focused application, they must understand the participant, including their day-to-day life and the daily burden their disease or condition places on them.

This is key because many applications fall short in identifying challenges and offering support to address difficult aspects of the trial journey. Too often, studies place a strong emphasis on gathering data from participants, and the equally important goal of delivering a positive experience and valuable information to the participant is ignored. I refer to this as unidirectional engagement.

In opposition to the unidirectional engagement approach, a patient-centered app will take a bidirectional approach, both obtaining and sharing information. Data collection should be done in a manner that minimizes the burden on the participant. For example, the participant should be afforded autonomy through the ability to enter information at a time that is most convenient for them. And if surveys are being used, the questions should be clear, limited and to the point.

In addition to collecting data, technology must offer a method for sharing relevant and useful information with the participant. Participants want to be informed and included as a respected part of the research team – receiving updates about matters such as how their trial works, the current trial status, findings related to their condition or information about other trials.

Finally, true patient centricity requires both pleasant and easy-to-use technology and great content delivered by the technology in order to collect data and share information.

Technology Must be Built with Flexibility in Mind

Participant preferences differ from person to person, so flexibility is critical. The 2021 CISCRP’s Patient Perceptions in Clinical Research Survey showed that 90% of prospective participants or experienced volunteers reported that it is important to have options related to where their study activities are performed (e.g., in-person visits at the site, virtual activities completed at home, etc.)

As more study activity is conducted remotely, there is a greater reliance on technology and an increased need for technology to offer an effortless experience while supporting protocol compliance. Patient-centered technology offers flexibility around where, when, and how participants engage, supporting the user of a participant’s preferred platform (mobile app, laptop, desktop, tablet) and offering participants as much flexibility as possible within the constraints of a given research protocol.

Looking Forward

Looking to the future, I see a focus on technology that supports the participant’s entire trial journey. Whether through a single platform or app integrations and seamless interoperability, I think the industry must work to unify the participant’s experience, including identifying and enrolling in a trial, accessing relevant and helpful resources, recording information in real-time, accessing information about site visits and travel itineraries, receiving visit and medication reminders, and tracking and managing reimbursements and stipends.

Participant-centricity requires collaboration between participants, sponsors / CROs, research sites and solution providers to ensure that technology creates the best possible participant experience. This will lead to better and faster treatments and cures.

VP, Mobile Applications

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