Digital Tools to Support Clinical Trials – Saving Time and Money

Learn how digital tools can help to overcome some of the challenges associated with traditional clinical trials and lead to savings in time and money.

March 30, 2021
10 min read
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COVID-19 has added to the already significant challenge of running effective clinical trials – introducing new safety concerns for the healthcare professionals planning and executing trials. Those concerns have also arguably slowed down the development of some treatments for potentially life-threatening diseases.

The need for digital tools in clinical trials 

Counterintuitively, the disruption to clinical research around the world may actually have a positive impact. Disruption can be overcome by innovation, and COVID-19 has added impetus to calls from industry stakeholders to find ways to streamline the traditional clinical trial process through digitalization. Clinical trial sponsors, organizers, and regulators point to the opportunity for digital technology to accelerate procedures in clinical trials. 

Problems with traditional clinical trial processes

Some of the inefficiencies hampering traditional trial processes relate to the way participants are selected and managed. Identifying and recruiting the right patient, gathering their information, ensuring they stay committed, and monitoring them throughout the course of the trial is crucial to a successful outcome.

As any seasoned clinical research professional knows, problems in recruitment and monitoring of patients often result in inflated costs, and potential delays for regulatory submission timelines.

Looking beyond patient management, industry professionals are concerned that the industry as a whole is being held back by outdated tools.

According to a study by Deloitte, many professionals in biopharma R&D admit that the current high-risk, high-cost R&D model is unsustainable. They state that clinical development has fallen behind in adopting digital technologies, which have the potential to change how research organizations can engage with patients, and execute processes to drive efficiencies. 

So, what are the main benefits of using digital tools to support clinical trials?

  • Streamlining the clinical trial process
  • Enhancing clinical trial productivity
  • Increased patient-centricity
  • Saving money 
  • Saving time 

What do we mean by a digitalized clinical trial?

Running a digitalized clinical trial means using new technologies to improve participant access, engagement, measurement, and interventions, as well as enabling concealed randomized allocation. Allocation concealment means that the person randomizing the patient does not know what the next treatment allocation will be. This prevents selection bias affecting which patients are given which treatment.

How could digital tools make clinical trials more effective? 

Effective patient recruitment is just one of the ways digital tools can help by cutting down on red tape and recruitment time. 

Improved pre-screening using digital tools such as decision tree software − increasingly used in the healthcare industry − can reduce the need to meet participants on-site, and contribute to high-quality trial recruitment, in other words, the inclusion of those patients better suited to the trial. Compressing the onboarding and recruitment timelines will, in turn, cut down on the costs of the trial.

How can digital tools make pre-screening more effective? 

Better pre-screening matches the right patients to the scientific questions being investigated, 

This is where online pre-screening using decision tree software can help. By asking potential study participants a series of questions related to the study criteria, clinical trial leaders can ensure that only those individuals who actually meet the criteria get referred to the clinical trial site, thereby reducing unnecessary footfall. 

This could also be followed up by telephone screening, facilitated through effective agent-scripting to guide screening conversations.

Digital pre-screening will ensure that there is always an eligible pool of participants available to enter the study if required.

How can digital tools help to facilitate patient-centric trials? 

Clinical trials can also fail due to protocol complexity, which can confuse patients. This is generally considered one of the biggest challenges faced by clinical trialists.

One way to address these challenges is to take a “patient-centric” approach to clinical trials. All patient communication and information provided must consider the health literacy of the patient and materials should be easy enough to understand. 

By using software that leads patients step by step through a series of interactive questions during the pre-screening or monitoring phases, investigators can make it easier for patients to understand the trial protocols and what they can expect.

Digital tools in the ongoing monitoring of clinical trial patients

In the monitoring phase, medical diagnosis tools can save time and money by providing efficient virtual triage during clinical trials and identifying trends as they develop in real time.

Medical self-diagnosis tools, or symptom checkers, ask the patient a series of simple questions, one by one, to generate possible diagnoses or recommendations. While they are not a replacement for in-person medical attention, they can be useful in eliminating unnecessary site visits (both costly and time-consuming, as well as unsafe in COVID-times), and putting patients’ minds at ease. They reduce the need for triage phone lines and are instant, interactive, and scalable.

In a clinical environment, the patient can enter their symptoms into a step-by-step, online health questionnaire while waiting to see a healthcare professional involved in the clinical trial process. This improves efficiency by performing the first stages of triage on their own. As such, the nurse or doctor already understands the patient’s symptoms or condition before they even enter the consultation room. Additionally, they can be used to reduce diagnostic error, and help manage clinical uncertainty. 

Choosing appropriate software for clinical trials

When looking for the right software to save costs and time by streamlining your clinical trial, you should look for a solution that is interactive, easy to use, and reliable at scale. That’s why Zingtree is the perfect software to support clinical trials. 

Zingtree is a plug-and-play, interactive decision tree solution that helps you build and deploy effective clinical trial pre-screening and monitoring questionnaires in minutes. Available online, on any device, Zingtree is used by doctors and facilities around the world to engage patients, increase the efficiency of clinical trial recruitment and monitoring, guide patients, and improve the standard of care. 

With no coding required, any clinical trial organizer and the team can launch, update, and maintain their assessments without heavy reliance on IT teams. Zingtree’s detailed analytics and reporting also mean you can get actionable insights from your screening or monitoring tools, helping you to better plan your trial and mitigate risks. 

Interested in learning more about implementing Zingtree in a clinical trial environment, risk assessment or medical diagnosis tool? Request a demo from our team today and we’ll be happy to discuss your aims and requirements.