Clinical Trial Recruiting Tools in the Digital Age
Tablets, smartphones, and even self-driving cars likely come to people’s minds when they hear about the information technology revolution affecting the way we work and play.
In reality, however, it goes much deeper than a myriad of apps that count your steps. New technology is paving the way for discoveries and novel abilities that won’t just enrich our lives, they may actually save them.
Take clinical trials for example.
Thanks to advances in digital imaging, 3D computer modeling and cloud-based data analytics, researchers are better able to understand cancer tumors at a molecular level. This in turn has opened up whole new areas of treatment exploration.1
That’s not the only way tech is changing research studies.
By helping to get the word out about research, raising awareness among patient communities, and increasing access, making contact with people through the Internet and social media are proving helpful in solving long-standing issues of recruitment and the resulting delays or cancellations of trials.
The internet and social media are proving helpful in solving long-standing issues of recruitment and the resulting delays or cancellations of trials.
This is no small feat. In less than 10 years the number of registered studies has gone from 50,000 in 2007 to more than 180,000 in 2014.2 That’s a lot of trials and a lot of people needed to fill them. It’s no wonder 85 percent of studies have been delayed due to not enough participants.3
Experts are using a wide range of technological options from websites to social media and more in an attempt to cast the widest net possible.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research created Fox Trial Finder, a site to help match those with Parkinson’s to appropriate trials (as well as sign up people without Parkinson’s to be control subjects). So far, over 40,000 individuals have registered to participate.4
Another site, Smart Patients, serves as an online community where patients can connect and learn about their ailments, the latest treatments and the most current science. It also has a built-in clinical trial search engine to make it easier to find studies, track them and discuss with others.5,6
Even the U.S. National Institutes of Health has gotten involved with the launch of their website, ClinicalTrials.gov. This resource includes a registry and results database of human clinical studies from around the world. Incorporating both publicly funded and privately supported trials, the site lists over 185,000 current entries.7
Social media is another way researchers are using the Internet to help with enrollment. Pharmaceutical companies have found success partnering with PatientsLikeMe, an online forum for people with medical conditions, and using its data-sharing platform to find subjects.3 WEGO Health, a network of over 100,000 bloggers, tweeters, Facebook participants and more, offers assistance in connecting patients with study trials among other services.8
More direct-to-patient approaches are being used as well. For example, Quintiles, a clinical research organization, skips physician sites and reaches out directly to people through mobile and video ads, social media sites and patient community groups it has created.9 One such example is their Mediguard, a site designed to help people monitor their medications and alert them to recalls and drug interactions. With over 2.6 million people registered, the site also provides access to a large group of potential clinical trials subjects.9,10
Quintiles has ventured onto Facebook and created a Page entitled “I Am More Than Lupus.” In addition to being a place people can find information, support and connection, the Page specifically states it was created as a means of introducing research opportunities to the community including clinical research, observational studies and disease management programs.9,11
They aren’t the only ones trying new avenues. TrialReach, a company that works to facilitate more patient involvement in clinical trials, provides everything from self-service tools to translate study protocols into easy-to-use interactive web pages to help getting the word out about trials to assistance in tracking information.12
Still others are thinking even further outside-the-box. When Johnson County Clin-Trials didn’t get enough responses to email blasts seeking participants for a vaccine clinical trial, they contacted Mosio, a company specializing in text messaging to recruit and retain subjects. 1,541 texts were sent to people telling them they could be eligible for a clinical trial; the action resulted in 795 potential subjects and 265 ultimate trial participants. The response was five times the rate of that to emails.9,13
There’s no doubt technology has changed our lives. From constant information to instantaneous communication, things are moving faster than ever. With all these new recruiting tools available, hopefully filling clinical trials and getting results will too.
Reviewed and amended on August 3, 2015