In just the past decade, technology has radically changed the way the world operates. With innovations like social media and wearable technology, we’re more connected than ever. It’s easy to think that technology only affects us socially, but let’s not forget the incredible medical advances we’ve seen in our lifetime. The past ten years have seen the introduction of 3D-printed organs, immunotherapy for cancers, and groundbreaking advances in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.
This leads us to wonder: how will clinical research evolve in the next 10-15 years? Derk Arts, Founder and CEO of Castor, and Kimberly Tableman, Castor’s Chief Clinical Development Officer, discuss what changes we can expect in clinical research, technology, and data through the lens of three key pillars.
The Industry’s Shift Towards Flexibility and Choice
To speculate on what the future of clinical research might look like, we can turn to the evolution of other industries, like financial services. Fifteen years ago, no one had the ability to deposit a check through an app on their smartphone. Today, it’s commonplace—and even expected.
“When we look at that shift and translate it to clinical research, we can obviously use that mobile experience where we can empower people to be able to have the experience they wish to have,” explains Kimberly Tableman.
That’s not to say each patient has to utilize a mobile app for their healthcare—in-person visits would still be available. “If they wish to go and speak with their primary care physician, they can. But if they wish to be in their home, we can potentially send out individuals to collect samples and do procedures within their home,” Tableman says.
When it comes to wearable technology, Derk Arts thinks the collected data will play a big role by, “Giving a patient the option to say, ‘Look, I want to unlock the data from this device I’m wearing and contribute it to a clinical trial.’” Wearable tech and services like 23andMe could also lead to people taking a more proactive role in their health.
“When we talk about flexibility, choice, and empowerment, more information and understanding of our own genetic makeup allows us to make choices about what we want to do,” says Tableman.
New and Innovative Trial Designs
Clinical trials are critical for evaluating the safety and efficacy of new treatments but often have low participation rates. In clinical trials, protocol typically requires a participant to travel to a trial site. This can create an accessibility barrier that’s hard to overcome. CVS has disrupted this by making clinical trials more accessible in the form of a “human-centric” approach. This means providing more locations and offering in-home clinical trials. Arts predicts that more companies will embrace this in the future.
“We’ll be weaving a trial around a human life as opposed to people adapting themselves to the trial protocol,” says Arts.
The more companies that follow in the footsteps of CVS, the greater the opportunity to reach a broader patient population. This will increase overall clinical research diversity by bringing trials and procedures to historically overlooked communities. “The expansion of the clinical research landscape through these partnerships is actually going to have a significant impact,” confirms Tableman. “We’ve already highlighted the rise in flexibility and choice, and this is just a continued reinforcement of that.”
Data Will Drive Healthcare and Research
Once the stuff of science fiction, AI has now worked its way into our everyday lives—and the healthcare industry is no exception. By taking data collected by third-party sources, AI technologies like Machine Learning can help researchers spend less time on rote tasks and more time analyzing the data that’s collected. “I think it should be less about pushing papers and transcribing data, and more about managing the data coming in from these various sources,” says Arts.
With the assistance of Machine Learning, researchers have more time to analyze the collected data—which could potentially have a significant impact on the timeline of developing new, life-saving medications. “The drug development timelines that are historically five to ten years could be cut in half,” predicts Tableman. We can also expect the influx of third-party and passive data collection to aid in the standardization and reuse of datasets. “The underlying foundation of the data in a standardized format is equally important to be able to fuel us as we move forward.”
It’s hard to deny the impact that new technologies, innovations, and data could potentially have on the future of clinical research. Increasing clinical trial accessibility, utilizing the data collected from wearable technology, and efficiently using that data provide participants the opportunity to take control of their health and wellbeing. Putting patients in control creates a real paradigm shift for how evidence-based medicine is functioning, driven by the way researchers disseminate knowledge and information, how they leverage data, and how they look at continuous, real-world data as opposed to highly structured site-based trials.
“We can see just how much data will drive healthcare and research forward, making trials richer, more efficient, and maximizing the impact they can have,” concludes Arts.
A patient-centric approach to clinical trials will help engage and retain participants for the duration of a decentralized trial. In this white paper, Castor explores how clinical researchers can improve the participant experience by incorporating good user design in their patient-facing technology and embracing what’s to come in the world of clinical research.