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In-Depth: The rise of the digital clinical trial

With billions of dollars and countless hours of human effort spent each year validating new drugs, devices, and medical interventions, it’s little surprise that the healthcare industry is turning to technology to streamline the process. From participant recruitment to data collection to adherence, clinical trials are rife with logistical challenges similar to those already being addressed by health tech’s major innovators — and trial sponsors have taken notice.

“How can you use software, hardware, coaching mechanisms, a combination of the above, to promote adherence … or make previously subjective measures objective?” Heather Bell, SVP, global head of digital and analytics at Sanofi, told MobiHealthNews. “Take something that used to be a patient-reported outcome — now I can simply track it using a wearable, … increasing my datasets and reducing the number of patients I need in order to get significance, thereby shrinking my trial and making it less expensive and faster to conduct.”

But despite the ubiquity of connected devices and tech disruptions across other industries, Bell admitted that healthcare has so far been slow to incorporate these advances in its clinical trials. To some — like Joe Dustin, principal of mobile health at Medidata, a New York-based company that offers cloud storage, management software, and data analytics services for clinical trials — the number of clinical trials that currently rely on antiquated, paper-based data collection is “pitiful”, considering what’s possible. Fortunately, though, he said he sees an industry that is beginning to turn around.

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