New technology promises to increase efficiency and boost patient recruitment, but its adoption is projected to be a slow process. Here’s what CROs and sponsors can expect.
From patient engagement to protocol design, digital technology has the potential to revolutionize clinical trials. As innovation becomes more widespread, it promises to advance patient care, make testing more efficient, and address the challenges of trial recruitment.
Despite these opportunities for improvement, the industry has been slow and inconsistent in adopting new technologies. In a report on the future of clinical trial development, Deloitte interviewed 43 industry leaders to understand how digital technology is being implemented. Research showed that digital adoption is a complex process and that use of new technology varies widely by organization.
Based on information collected from pharma and CRO executives, Deloitte has put together a projected timeline for the adoption of new technologies from data mining to artificial intelligence (AI). While some are ready for immediate implementation, it may take up to 10 years for others to appear in late-stage trials.
Ready for Immediate Adoption: Now-3 years
Technologies that assess protocol design and patient inclusion-exclusion criteria have proven to be easier to integrate into clinical trials, as have those that obtain e-consent or capture patient-reported outcomes. Other technologies that are ready for adoption include tools that support medication adherence solutions and monitor the risks of potential trial sites. These technologies are currently approaching widespread use, and Deloitte expects them to make a far-reaching impact on clinical trials in the next two to three years.
Next in Line: 3-5 years
These technologies are in the pilot stage at some organizations and will likely be implemented in clinical trials in the next three to five years. Tools that can mine electronic health records (EHRs) for patient identification, measure endpoints in partially virtual trials, and use natural language processing to produce patient-safety narratives are included in this group. Clinical trials can also expect to see widespread adoption of cognitive technologies that automate routine activities.
Advanced Technologies: 5-10 years
More ambitious technologies like entirely virtual trials, natural language processing that can perform complex medical writing, and digital biomarkers as primary endpoints will likely be implemented in the next 5-10 years. Early adopters are also expected to use artificial intelligence to analyze and interpret information from other studies and data. The utility of blockchain, virtual/augmented reality, and digital assistants is still being evaluated, but these technologies may be implemented over the next several years as well.
What This Timeline Means for Clinical Trials
CROs and sponsors may already be familiar with some of these tools, while others could take years to adopt. Deloitte’s research also points out that the implementation of new technology will probably vary greatly across regions. Regardless of when these tools will reach widespread use, clinical trials should be prepared to adjust when new technology arrives.
In the short term, trials can make use of digital marketing tools like paid search and social media advertising to engage with patients on the platforms they use daily. The right digital marketing strategy can help clinical trials effectively reach new audiences and meet patient recruitment standards.