Changing Perspectives: The Virtual Patient Experience in Clinical Trials

Elisa Sung • November 3, 2022

As the world grows increasingly digital, moving patient engagement in clinical trials to a more comprehensive virtual experience is becoming an increasingly important perspective. Digital engagement with patients impacts not only longevity for participation, but also the quality of data collected as well as portions of critical infrastructure, such as supply change management. Leading pharma, medical device, and data companies are finding that digital health tools within clinical trials are becoming vital component  for success. HITLAB’s panel featuring senior leadership of Information Mediary Corp (IMC), Medidata, and Merck, highlighted how digital technologies benefit both patients as well as internal operations for clinical trials. 

Panelist Alicia Staley, Senior Director of Patient Engagement at Medidata, shared her personal experience with the patient side of clinical trials as a three-time cancer survivor. She explained how communities on social media are creating connections between people with similar conditions. Members foster connections by sharing information, linking each other with resources, such as providers, and creating access to virtual elements within clinical trials that could otherwise be limited by various hurdles, such as geographical barriers. In her view, these communities are an untapped resource for companies looking for clinical trial participants. 

For Information Mediary Corp’s (IMC) Michael Peterson, medication adherence has increased engagement by reducing in-person clinic visits, improving data quality, and strengthening connections between patients and providers. Adherence packaging has been able to track previously unknown patient behaviors as well as improve data accuracy while delivering real-time information without disruption to a patient’s daily routine or schedule. As a result, patients are able to remain within trial pathways without deviation, while data quality is improved with real-time feedback albeit more passively.   

As Director of Operations & Supply Technology at Merck, panelist Matthew Moyer provided a clinical trial sponsor perspective when he highlighted how social media communities could help track product availability across regions. His connection with Alicia Staley’s experience seemed indicate a new avenue for supply chain management in geographically poor resourced areas. Delivery technology such as drones could enable companies to deliver medications to remote areas and streamline the delivery process by directly delivering them from the warehouse to the patient. Additionally, newly emerging tools, such as IMC’s medication adherence technology, could have potential for tying into supply chain management models, by helping reduce or eliminate in-person clinic visits during non-milestone study points. However, such integration is several years away.

While technologies such as intelligent packaging and social media hold promise in optimizing the virtual patient experience in clinical trials, adopting new technologies takes time. Stakeholder participation in new technology that is gradual, patient-centric, and split into phases will minimize risk and allow a company to reap the benefits. Additionally, emerging technologies hold great possibilities toward increasing access in emerging economies across the globe. 

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