Upturn in trial tech use will drive recruitment innovation

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Technology use in clinical trials is accelerating and will have a major impact on patient recruitment and other processes, said a PCT panel.

Biopharm has been slow to adopt clinical trial technologies but a number of factors are accelerating progress, said panellists at Partnerships in Clinical Trials (PCT) 2011.

It’s reached an inflection point​”, said John Hubbard, Pfizer’s senior vice president, worldwide development operations. Hubbard seconded the view, put forwarded by John Potthoff, chief operating officer at INC Research, that use of technology will have the biggest impact on trials.

For example, targeting distinct patient populations through social media and niche healthcare sites has the potential to improve the recruitment process. However, this moves biopharm into unfamiliar territory.

This industry is pretty archaic​”, said Jeffrey Zucker, senior director and global head, patient recruitment at Kendle. A result of this mindset is that it can take time for advances, such as electronic data capture, to be accepted, but the industry is slowly adopting more technology.

Adoption is happening “at the pace the industry can absorb​”, said Potthoff. INC has, so far, mainly used social media to retain patients and has found it is a very effective tool.

Small players drive change

Sponsors and contract research organisations (CRO) are increasingly interested in social media but some expect smaller business, recruitment agencies in particular, to drive innovation.

Joseph Kim, director of clinical operations at Shire​ Pharmaceuticals, said larger players will only commit after seeing results. However, a wait-and-see approach could cause companies to be left behind or stifle innovation.

There is anecdotal evidence that CROs are becoming more active in the area. Dennis Upah, executive vice president at Health Central, said he has had a lot of conversations with CROs and patient recruiters over the past six months.

While big companies ease into the sector there are opportunities for those willing to embrace new ways of working, said Upah. For instance, big pharma is wary of using community websites and this creates a relatively affordable patient recruitment strategy for smaller companies.

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2 comments

Most Active Players Are at the Site Level

Posted by Carmen Gonzalez,

Thanks for the article. I agree that the bigest sources of change involving social media for recruitment will be seen from smaller players. However, I am not seeing a lot of usage even at the CRO level. Rather, the real pioneers with social media are the clinical sites that have the economic incentives to break through all other advertising noise. I conducted a survey last year among sites across the U.S. and found that among all types of sites, the entrepreneural and smaller specialty sites were out in front experimenting with the medium. It is the bureaucratic and mostly larger institutions that have too much intertia to compell them to adopt new media. Nevertheless, as this field matures, I expect more jump into the waters.

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Ice water in the desert

Posted by Joseph Kim,

The industry also needs to avoid the temptation of waiting for perfection before adoption. Technology adoption in Pharma is a bit like wandering the desert, being offered a glass of water, and then turning it down because there is no ice in it. Surely EDC has it's issues, but does anyone really want to go back to triple carbon case report forms?

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