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Virtual Clinical Studies

by Melynda Geurts

Over the last several decades, the clinical research industry has been riddled with the challenge of meeting enrollment goals on time. Eighty percent of trials fall short of their goals. Moreover, the industry is further challenged with maintaining trial participation by patients once they are enrolled. Attrition rates average about 40 percent.

There are many reasons why our industry struggles with these metrics. At the top of the list are study design, patient burden, and accessibility. What is the answer to mitigate these challenges? Virtual clinical studies.

As we move through the 21st century, technological advances allow us to bring the trial to a patient versus the patient coming to the trial or in this case the research center. Companies like Pfizer (REMOTE 2011 study) and Sanofi (VERKKO 2015 study) have blazed the trail by being among the first pharma companies to execute virtual clinical trials.

There are still scenarios that have to be calculated into the study design to mitigate enrollment challenges. From Pfizer’s REMOTE trial, we learned that one challenge is the lack of trust among an older population that has to provide informed consent through an app. Conversely, we’ve seen good results from some virtual trials that focus on the use of a device (like the VERKKO study) versus evaluating medication impact, which was the focus of the REMOTE study.

Virtual clinical studies may be best used as a complement to traditional clinical studies, since not all study designs will be conducive to the virtual clinical trials. But one thing we have learned: there is a definite future for virtual clinical studies.

This is the fourth blog in our series on Patient Centricity. Read our previous blogs, What Does Patient Centricity Really Mean? , Focus Groups for Protocol Design and Patient Engagement: Is there an App for that?

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