When clinical trials don’t publish, patients don’t get better. Here’s how digital technology, including digital marketing, can help.
The clinical trial process is notoriously riddled with delays, most frequently due to missed patient enrollment quotas. But a study published earlier this month in JAMA Network revealed a surprising source of additional delay – the lag time between data collection and publishing trial results.
The JAMA study found that, across 341 studies in six medical journals, the overall median data age was 33.9 months at the time of publication, and the median time from final data collection to publication was 14.8 months. 18.5% of trials required two or more years of publication time; 19.9% required more than four years just to complete enrollment.
These numbers are made more concerning by the fact that all of these studies eventually appeared in high-profile medical journals. This indicates that their findings were significant developments, so their delayed publication can have major, negative effects on the lives of many patients waiting for treatment or a new breakthrough.
Prioritizing the Patient
Of course, not all factors in a clinical trial can be altered for timeliness. Responsible, accurate reporting indisputably requires careful study and follow-up. If a trial has a follow-up period of a year, that’s unchangeable. However, the time it takes to get the paper published after final data collection are well within the control of researchers, and expediting these processes should be a top priority for clinical trials.
For clinical trials, delaying publishing by 14 months may not seem like a huge issue. After all, the temptation to pursue a perfect paper is strong. But for patients seeking treatment, 14 months can make all the difference. Often, time moves differently for these patients; suffering from a chronic, debilitating, or life-threatening disease can make every month or year feel much longer.
Apart from the compelling argument to consider the patient, expedited publishing gets valuable knowledge into the open as soon as it’s available. The sooner that new options are introduced to the market, the closer the medical community gets to finding cures or effective management plans for these conditions. Therefore, the onus is on trials to shorten time to publishing by any means possible.
Using Digital Resources to Expedite Publishing
Though the need for a streamlined study review process post-data collection seems apparent, trials have the most control over what happens before they even start collecting data. By implementing electronic health records, or EHRs, to pre-register patients before a trial even begins, trials can minimize paperwork and ensure that they’re ready to go when the trial begins.
Another area where technology can help is patient recruitment before and during a trial. Digital ads on search engines and social media not only open the recruitment pool to a wider audience, but can also help sponsors and CROs target potential patients by location, age, gender, and a wealth of other qualifiers. By using these tools, investigator sites can pinpoint patients or caregivers actively seeking treatment options and quickly lead them to an initial screening – hosted on a dedicated landing page.
Trials may be able to bear delays in publishing, but patients often cannot. By implementing digital tools, sponsors and CROs can give patients the best chance of getting the treatments they need to live happy, healthy lives.