The Clinical Trial Of The Future
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The Clinical Trial Of the Future

As a means to possibly save thousands of lives, clinical trials are important. However, the means and resources with which these trials are conducted is stagnating in comparison to other equally essential areas of the healthcare industry. Clinical trials are meant to establish the effectiveness of pharmaceutical products, enlisting specific niche communities and sometimes much broader varieties of individuals to establish whether a drug could work commercially.

The cause is noble, and has been so for the decades in which clinical trialling has slowly been taking shape, but the simple truth is that these trials are failing in a modern context. This is because many technologies which healthcare organisations could be utilising are being ignored. These are simple technologies like smart-phones and Near Field Communication (NFC) which many people have access to, and are apparent in other areas of the healthcare industry, but seldom seen in clinical trials.

Beyond patient recruitment, many healthcare professionals are calling for apps to be more widely utilised throughout the entire process of a clinical trial. Sometimes, a trial can enlist help from far too many patients to manage individually, yet important information must be ascertained and fed-back by the patient themselves. This is where mobile technologies can help, as communications can be easily maintained via a mobile network or app.

Mobile has become a big part of the wider healthcare industry. If we look into the specifics, we see it’s mostly the pharmaceutical industry that won’t play nice. This may seem odd, as why would a pharma manufacturer not want their products tested as frequently as possible? From what I can understand, it is the loss of control over the process which troubles the industry most. Pharmacy is big business, and drugs are an intellectual property with a licence to print money, so making the process more open and inclusive undermines the image of importance and authority that big pharma has worked so hard to build.

Utilising mobile also opens the way for further technologies to be introduced. NFC is currently used for mobile payments, much in the same way a contactless card would work. For clinical trials, patients would be able to share personal information with doctors with greater ease, which can be passed onto logistical planners and influence the ongoing nature of a trial. Updates like these are important to how effective the results of a trial will be; it highlights the need for better avenues of communication between everyone involved in a clinical trial.

A more rapid adoption of this technology could overhaul many areas of clinical trialling in need. For example, better communicative abilities via mobile technologies could vastly improve comparator product sourcing, patient outreach, trial scheduling, and plenty of the logistics related to people and patient coordination. Especially in the case of randomised testing, as finding appropriate candidates who are not already in the system or trialling an existing drug can be difficult. This is why maintaining more open channels between doctors, patients and clinics could make this type of recruitment easier.

Some attempts have already been made by the healthcare industry to achieve such an outcome. In particular, Apple’s HealthKit app which launched with the iPhone 6 encompasses a wide range of medical uses, including monitoring various functions within the body, contacting emergency services, and most importantly, an option to search and apply for relevant clinical trials. Even medical professionals can access data uploaded in an open source environment.

With healthcare organisations firmly starting to embrace consumer technologies, it is definitely time for clinical trials to follow suit. These technologies have already proven to make the management of healthcare logistics much simpler, and with an ever increasing number of people embracing mobile connectivity around the world, the outcome seems clear.


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