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Are Decentralized Clinical Trials the Future? A Closer Look for Those in Clinical Research Training


In recent years, decentralized clinical trials have generated much discussion for the pharmaceutical industry. Decentralized trials offer a new model of clinical research that incorporates new technologies and remote assessments, with the aim to gather more diverse and inclusive data and offer improved patient care. With the move to a patient-centric approach, decentralized trials are finding ways to accommodate various patient needs that are often neglected in traditional trials. 

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry has been forced to meet operational challenges with innovative solutions that make use of technological advances. With the disruption of in-person activities, research sites must stay open to change and find strategies that benefit both patients and sponsors in the long term. Here’s a closer look at what to expect from the future of decentralized trials. 

Improving Patient Access

When it comes to patient satisfaction, decentralized clinical trials offer a more streamlined experience that reduces the burden of in-person visits to clinical sites. Patients can reap the benefits of a more time-efficient research process from the comfort of their own homes. Not only does this improve the patient experience but it also enables wider patient access – with the ability to reach those in rural communities, those who don’t drive, or those who work restrictive hours. With decentralized trials, those people can participate in the study by sharing their data remotely. 

Professionals with clinical research training should note how remote trials can improve patient access

Research sites also enjoy a number of benefits from improved patient access, including:

  • Real-world data collection
  • A larger pool of data
  • A more comprehensive research study 
  • More productive visits between research staff and participants

In their operations, decentralized trials rely heavily on new technologies that make remote assessment possible. Apps, wearables, and online software allow researchers to gather information on the daily experiences of participants, outside of the controlled environment of a research site. Professionals with clinical research training can use these tools to coordinate clinical research projects and improve the enrollment and retention of study subjects. 

New technologies allow for remote patient monitoring

Increase Trial Diversity After Clinical Research Training

When addressing patient recruitment, the question arises over how you can ensure underrepresented populations are brought into the trial. Enabling wider patient access creates a more diverse pool of data, by improving the access of disadvantaged communities who may not have the time or means to make regular trips to research facilities. 

Along with strategies like improving eligibility criteria and collaborating with community medical facilities, decentralized trials can benefit patient diversity by:

  • Creating research sites in local communities – existing caregivers can manage their patient’s study and keep clinic visits close to home
  • Build sites around the patient – a “site” can exist on the patient’s phone or between a patient and their local practitioner 

Students in a clinical research program will learn the principles and practices of effective research site management needed for careers in the pharmaceutical, biotechnological, and medical devices industries. Ultimately, new technologies are changing the landscape of these industries by freeing research practices to accommodate where diverse subjects are more likely to participate. 

Decentralized trials benefit from a more diverse pool of patient data

How Research Sites Can Adapt to Decentralized Trials

Preparing for decentralized trials takes a lot of planning and focus to ensure new technologies are employed for accuracy and efficiency. Research sites need to establish their methods for obtaining and sharing data. Trial data can now come from multiple avenues, including wearable technology, online appointments, and local physicians, as well as from traditional on-site appointments. 

To manage this effectively, research sites need to invest in tools to share data across multiple platforms and locations. That software needs to be designed specifically for the industry and in compliance with clinical trial regulations. Remote technology should also be user-friendly to allow clinical research assistants to offer excellent customer support with software that’s easy to use. With secure and compliant strategies, decentralized trials offer a new and improved model of clinical research that can shape the future of the pharmaceutical industry. 

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