The decentralization of clinical trials has forever changed the nature of medical research. By taking advantage of mobile healthcare technologies and sophisticated software solutions, decentralized trials allow patients and physicians to engage in trial activities with little to no personal interaction involved.
From a post-pandemic perspective, it’s fairly self-evident that lockdowns and isolation protocols merely accelerated the adoption of decentralized clinical trials. The most drastic shifts towards remote healthcare might have been caused by the pandemic, but the versatile strategies of decentralized models have already proven their efficacy outside of that context.
The benefits of decentralization hold many exciting possibilities for modern medicine. In order to understand how these models will be crucial to the clinical-trial industry in the future, let’s take a look at four factors behind the rising adoption rate of decentralized trials.
Unlike centralized clinical trials, decentralized trials can be performed without the need for a central testing/processing facility. Subsequently, patients and physicians don’t have to travel unnecessarily, central operations are less costly, and valuable resources can be put to use elsewhere.
Its convenience makes it a patient-centric approach, but there are multiple benefits for all parties involved. Take wearable devices, for example, which can provide you with valuable insight into your health, while simultaneously giving your physician live updates on any health issues worthy of concern.
Compared to traditional testing strategies, remote healthcare services have been shown to increase the retention of trial participants. Healthcare providers gain access to greater sample size for the purposes of research, and patients are more willing to participate in trial activities when they can do so from the comfort of home.
Safety & comfort
In any aspect of healthcare, putting a patient’s needs above all else is of utmost importance. With that in mind, you could go as far as saying that comfort and convenience are two of the defining characteristics of decentralization.
Without having in-person meetings, digital tools like video conferencing allow sponsors to create personalized risk assessments, ensuring that patients get healthcare that targets their specific pre-existing conditions and behaviors.
Streamlined by the addition of mobile technologies, such as remote health monitoring, mobile healthcare providers, and electronic assessment tools, decentralized trials create a ‘network’ of data points that can all be monitored remotely.
This network of healthcare services increases patient safety, as it gives clinicians and other researchers direct access to all relevant data, allowing them to execute timeous adjustments to research and medication schedules. Throughout this process, trial participants are still safe and sound at home.
Scaled data analysis
At this point, we’ve established that decentralization collects large amounts of data remotely. However, the scalability of these trials is hard to overstate. They can focus on a wide range of data points at any time, and their popularity is increasing at an unprecedented rate.
Due to their ability to deal with data sets of any size, the future of these trial elements will depend on how effective automated clinical validation becomes. For accurate operational analysis, clinical insights derived from decentralized sources need improved regulation and updated legislation.
Many countries are beginning to realize the importance of finding a balance between innovation and legal requirements. After all, it’s all well and good to have massive amounts of data, but if they lack the necessary validation all of that information becomes compromised.
As exciting as new technologies are, the exponential nature of their development brings us to a critical crossroads: do we approach innovation with caution, or push for legislation that will allow for greater experimentation? Only time will tell how quickly we can adapt to ever-evolving technologies.
Speed & adaptability
In an age where speed of service has become a chief priority, trial participants are always looking for ways to avoid queues and waiting times, and trial sponsors are happy to speed up the trial process seeing that it can lead to economic growth.
By that logic, it would be logical to assume that a fully virtual trial offers the quickest route to desired results. However, many trials require at least some form of a central facility, especially for advanced screening measures, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans, for instance.
This is where hybrid models come in. Hybrid clinical trials take the best of centralized and decentralized trials, only adopting the elements that will best suit the research objectives of any given trial.
Using hybrid models allows sponsor organizations to maximize efficiency and productivity. With the careful implementation of trial activities, the clinical-trial industry can ensure optimum service delivery that not only puts a patient’s needs first but also streamlines the process for sponsors, physicians, and other medical personnel.
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