Using the Apple iPhone and iPad app potential study participants and investigators can search a database of clinical trials. PPD thinks the app, social media and other technology can improve patient recruitment and other trial processes, but there is still uncertainty in these emerging areas.
“There will be some trial and error”, Paul Colvin, chief operating officer at PPD, told Outsourcing-Pharma, but the potential of social media and mobile technologies make this process worthwhile.
People visiting niche healthcare websites or searching for studies using an app are likely to be knowledgeable, engaged patients who may be actively seeking to take part in a clinical trial.
These people may also influence other patients and their physicians. Consequently, increasing understanding and awareness in the patient community can have many knock-on benefits, said John Hubbard, senior vice president, worldwide development operations at Pfizer.
A considered approach is needed when engaging with patients though. It is important employees using social media and technology understand how people use it, preferably through using it in their personal lives, said Patrick Lindsay, executive vice president at United BioSource.
Different demographics use technology in different ways and companies need to understand this when engaging with people. For example, some people will be easier to contact, and prefer to be reached, by text message than a phone call.
PPD is also applying technology to its internal operations. In partnership with ProtonMedia it is developing a virtual clinical trial training system. Using the system PPD expects to improve the cost-effectiveness, speed and quality of its global training activities.
The system will combine a virtual collaboration environment from ProtonMedia with data and information technology from PPD. From within the virtual classroom a range of training activities, such as a monitoring session, can be performed, cutting travel costs while maintaining standards.
Once the system is in place PPD will look to use in other areas of its business, said Colvin. Internal meetings, as well as those with clients, are expected to be conducted in the virtual environment in the future.