Virtual Clinical Trials: A Medical Industry Breakthrough
Clinical trials are hardly a new idea; they’ve been around in some form or other since the very first days of medicine. A clinical trial is a study designed to test the effectiveness of a particular drug or treatment on several groups of patients.
They can be biomedical, surgical, or behavioral in nature, but they all have the same aim; to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Historically, these trials have been carried out in locations such as hospitals, clinics, or labs, depending on the trial and its needs.
Patients would often have to travel great distances, leaving their comfortable homes and even jobs behind for the trial duration. These days, however, there’s a new kid on the block; the virtual clinical trial.
Many things about the clinical trial will stay the same; doctors or scientists will still need a clinical trial management system, and the point of the trial will remain the same. The significant difference is the fact that the trial will take place in the patient’s home environment.
The virtual part of a virtual clinical trial means that the patients and doctors will connect via messaging platforms rather than constantly be in personal contact.
Virtual clinical trials are a modern medical triumph for a number of reasons.
Better Patient Recruitment and Diversity
The discomfort of traveling long distances many times over the duration of the trial is one of the most significant factors in patients either dropping out before the trial has reached its conclusion or not signing up at all.
The current numbers for patient dropout by stage 3 of a trial sit at around 30% due to several patient difficulties. Taking the study away from an uncomfortable, foreign environment and into the patient’s home means that the patient isn’t inconvenienced at all, and pharmaceutical companies save vast amounts of money by not losing patients.
In typical clinical trials, patients are only recruited through their doctors, by seeing information at a hospital or clinic, or via advertisements placed in magazines and newspapers.
Virtual clinical trials take a slightly more high-tech route and do most of their recruitment online or using a hybrid model. Unlimited by location, virtual clinical trials are far, far better at recruiting patients.
Minority patients are radically underrepresented in clinical trials, often because of the financial constraints that come along with missing work or leaving home every day for a clinical trial, among other reasons.
If all citizens are not represented in a trial, the data cannot possibly be wholly accurate. Home-based virtual trials are far less financially and time inconvenient, meaning that underprivileged communities are more easily able to take part.
For too long, the processes of the medical sector have taken place at the convenience of the physicians calling the shots. Virtual trials are a far more patient-centric approach to clinical trials; after all, these treatments and drugs are being tested out for the good of patients!
Patients are well informed in clinical trials as all they need to know is constantly accessible on the trial website, and physicians are available to them for any questions via chat. As we mentioned in our previous point, patients save both time and money and are inconvenienced far less by virtual trials than they are by traditional ones.
Data collected in a medically sound environment simply isn’t as accurate as data collected in the real world. Without doctors monitoring them 24/7 and being relegated to one room or even to bed, patients can live their everyday lives just like they would be doing if they were taking the new medicine or having the treatment outside of a trial environment.
Data coming to scientists and doctors running these trials will come via patient monitoring devices and the internet instead of daily, invasive tests carried out in a sterile environment. These drugs and treatments need to work in the real world, for real people.
Pharmaceutical companies lose millions when patients miss appointments or drop out of trials altogether, as we mentioned earlier. Virtual meetings are far easier on the patient and thus, encourage them to stay with the process, which gets the trial to its end phase and the drug or treatment hopefully into mass production for commercial use. Hospitalization costs these companies a lot; patients staying home is a far more financially sensible option.
Virtual clinical trials are here to stay, and the medical community is very happy about that. They are a step forward in managing costs, patient-centric care, and streamlining the overall process in the most logical, medically sound way. We know it will be some time yet before traditional trials become entirely obsolete, but there’s a clear difference between the two, and eventually, that fact will win the day for virtual trials.