In an ideal world, this would be a “post-pandemic” blog. Instead, this is an “ongoing pandemic” post reflecting on what’s changed in clinical trials since 2020, which of those changes are likely to endure and why we should maintain momentum.
Over the past two years, the pandemic has prompted changes across industries. Consumers have made big shifts to digital banking, online shopping and curbside pickup. In healthcare delivery, we saw a spike in the use of telehealth. And in clinical trials, we saw a pivot to the kinds of experiences patients have told us they value: Digital. Convenient. Accessible.
eCOA and ePRO have helped enable those experiences, and I think it’s safe to say no one will return fully to paper-based processes. But I hope that as an industry, we do more than digitize old paper workflows. Instead, I hope we keep advancing—including using more sophisticated eCOA and ePRO—to support decentralized clinical trials (DCTs).
For patients, the DCT model makes participation in a trial much less daunting. They can use an eCOA tool to complete an eConsent from home. They can interact with a site via video visits. And they can fill out questionnaires in a much more timely manner. eCOA is a great antidote to “Parking Lot Syndrome,” in which a trial participant plows through stacks of paperwork in their car just before a site visit.
Maintaining momentum toward the DCT model is great for patients. It also offers very real advantages to sites and sponsors. A robust eCOA/ePRO platform can help address two important goals:
- Greater patient diversity. Long before the pandemic, the clinical trial industry was striving to democratize studies to attract a broader, more representative cross-section of patients. eCOA and ePRO reduce patient burden, especially time and travel requirements, so that more people can participate.
- Real–time trial visibility. eCOA and ePRO can solve for many longstanding problems in patient-reported data. It solves for legibility and attributions. It enables contemporaneous reporting. And it creates an audit trial. With the right platform, everyone—sites, sponsors, CRAs, study managers—know what’s going on and when. Why wait six weeks for updates from patients? An effective ePRO platform is with the patient all the time, and it becomes possible to know how they’re doing any time.
As we continue finding our collective way to a “new normal,” consider how eCOA and ePRO can positively impact the way you engage patients in your trials. Lower patient burden. More inclusion and diversity. Significantly better visibility. Let’s keep working to make it happen.