What Are Virtual Research Trials?
I am Dr. Jeff Kingsley and this is another edition of Riding in Cars With Researchers! If you’ve been following us, you have seen the hashtag, #RevolutionizingResearch. Revolutionizing research is all about making the process better of how we do research – to benefit patients, physicians, to enhance how quickly we are able to help patients in need, and innovate faster in healthcare. That’s what revolutionizing research is about. Many times it is not about the little things we do to make it better, it’s about the dramatic things we can do.
Today, we are going to talk about virtual clinical trials. What are virtual clinical trials? It means sending the research to the patient instead of having the patient come to me. How great would that be for our patients? We’ve talked about how research is getting harder, we are asking more of our patients in research than we have ever done in the past, there are more, lengthy office visits, and we are asking them to go to a facility to an exam room with a physician by their side. Is that really necessary today? Could we enhance that? Could we make the experience easier and better for our patients?
Yes, we can! It’s being done in the rest of healthcare today. People can come to your home and check your vital signs, even draw your blood. Through telemedicine, you can be seen through your cell phone vs a facility in a rural area of the world. If research is getting harder and it’s harder to find patients that meet the criteria for trials, then why don’t we go to the patient? It’s a win for everyone involved.
The Benefits of Virtual Trials
Let’s look at some examples of why this would be a tremendous benefit. A friend of mine has a healthcare communications company and writes content on certain disease states where patients can learn more about diseases and engage with other people with the same disorder. He has millions of people who read about migraines on his website and has 35,000 patients with significant migraines who can read about their disorder and engage with other people suffering from the same. Those patients would love to be in a research trial as they would love to be involved in things that would relieve migraine suffering or would eliminate migraines altogether. I asked him what percentage of his patients live somewhere that they would be offered to participate in a research trial and his answer was….2%. Only 2% of his patients live in a place where they could go into a migraine trial – that’s 98% who cannot. If we could send research to those patients we would be able to fully enroll in a migraine trial in a matter of a month. Those patients could participate from the comfort of their homes and we would be able to push that migraine research out into rural corners of the US or even the world.
We can identify patients through their electronic healthcare records with their consent, and ship a research-related electronic tablet to their homes for their use. Using video with a patient on a tablet, we can obtain consent and discuss things in more detail than if they came into my office. Essentially, we can enroll a patient in a research trial, obtain the blood work and vitals in their own home, ship an electronic tablet to their home, and do drug accountability in their home. We can even do virtually enabled physical exams and data collection. In fact, by pushing research into their homes, I can make the process more convenient for the patient, find patients from around the world, and I can collect better data as I won’t just be collecting data from when the patient is in my facility, but continuously. I can see how well they are moving, how well they are getting around, the quality of their sleep. By not having to collect data from individual points in time when they come into my facility, we can enhance everything involving research. This is what revolutionizing research is…
I believe virtual clinical trials are coming. They are being experimented with today with success. I am participating and very excited. There is a movement underway that will enhance HOW we do research. Bringing research into people’s homes benefits everybody. This is coming soon – watch for it!
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