United BioSource (UBC), a firm that connects pharma firms and research partners with patient-centric technology, has received the 2021 Healthiverse Heroes Award for Life Sciences, given by health tech provider DrFirst to organizations that exhibit innovative use of technology and breaking down of information to help improve care, collaboration, interoperability, and patient outcomes.
The company’s automated outreach program enrolls trial participants via secure messages transmitted to the patient’s mobile device. When a prescription is issued by a physician, the platform automatically sends a text; after the message is accepted and the patient authenticated, they are taken to a personalized web page with details about the drug.
Within the workflow, the tech identifies any qualifying patient as a potential trial candidate and delivers the trial information in an educational format. If the patient is interested in learning more, she clicks a button and is routed to the study site.
Outsourcing-Pharma connected with UBC vice president of global product and innovation Ron Lacy, who told us about the company, and why the technology is award-worthy.
OSP: Please tell us about your automated outreach program—how does it work; and what challenges with clinical trial patient ID, enrollment and engagement does the technology help overcome?
RL: A pharmaceutical manufacturer approached UBC as they were having a difficult time recruiting patients for a Phase III clinical trial for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Understanding the treatment journey was paramount to identifying solutions to overcome this challenge.
Given the nature of MDD, it can sometimes take more effort to connect and engage with these patients. By partnering with DrFirst, we were able to identify patients based on the protocol criteria (age 18 – 65 years of age and within a 75-mile radius of investigator sites) who were prescribed one of the other available medications approved to treat MDD. This allowed us to quickly identify thousands of candidates who were currently on treatment that we could potentially enroll in our Phase III trial.
More traditional methods (mailers, phone calls) of enrollment typically deliver a 3%-5% response rate whereas using the DrFirst a technology-driven solution we achieved a 60% response rate.
OSP: Congratulations on landing the 2021 Healthiverse Heroes Award from DrFirst. Could you please share some of the reasons why you won, and what the win means for your company and this specific tech?
RL: UBC won this award for our core competency which is taking the time to understand our clients’ disease state(s) and applying that knowledge into novel approaches and technology solutions. This award and our work with DrFirst is just one specific example and represents our commitment towards innovation, and the use of secure messaging to recruit qualified candidates.
We believe winning this award showcases our ability to accelerate evidence generation for clients using real-world data and to shorten the product development lifecycle for our clients.
OSP: I understand that during a recent trial, UBC managed to inform 319,000 patients, of which 196,000 consented to be qualified for the trial and then 73,000 qualified over a ten-week period. Please share how you were able to accomplish all that, and why those figures are notable.
RL: DrFirst enabled UBC to target patients specifically being prescribed specific classes of commercially available MDD medications including SSRIs, SNRIs, NDRIs, TCAs, and MAOIs. The program allowed us to text patients a unique URL with access to a custom-built web screener where patients could learn about the study and provide consent to enroll in the trial. This innovative patient recruitment method allowed us to more quickly identify candidates who were currently on treatment that could participate in our Phase III trial.
OSP: Could you please share advice to clinical trial teams and pharma-firm sponsors on how to determine which technology is right for the job?
RL: As a technology-forward company, UBC builds a culture of innovation. We encourage our product owners, operators, and software engineers to consider solutions that can be fit-for-purpose developed. For example, UBC will look at adjacent markets such as hospital settings, healthcare systems, and insurance call centers where we can identify solutions that patients are experiencing in those setting and bring them to our clients.
Our experts then understand how to take existing technologies and make them fit for purpose, with the ultimate goal of improving the patient experience within UBC programs.
A few of the key recent technologies we’ve deployed and implemented into our programs came from existing technology that was not being utilized in the biopharmaceutical market yet and adapted to fit the needs of patients in our programs. A few of these examples include virtual assistants and mobile messaging, as well as conversational intelligence.
OSP: Do you have anything to add—about your company, the general trial landscape, and what the future might look like?
RL: UBC is optimistic that clients and patients are gaining confidence that we will begin to return to some state of normalcy, with doctors' offices having opened back up safely and patients able to receive routine care. What has changed, however, is the industry's desire for decentralized strategies that bring the trial to the patient, but more comprehensive solutions are required to collect critical evidence beyond the walls of the traditional study setting.
We believe that for decentralized and hybrid trials and studies, there is not a one size fits all approach. A critical early step in designing a virtual study is assessing the feasibility of incorporating different technologies and strategies; some of these include leveraging an in-home clinical trial nursing service that is trained specifically on protocol and schedule of assessments to administer the study drug or collect labs and vitals.
Other trials may incorporate a wearable or apple watch as we are doing in one specific study that allows us to capture data using an ePRO as the event is occurring in real-time.
UBC has been a leader for nearly 30 years in clinical trials (hybrid, virtual or traditional) as well as post-marketing and observational research which all focus on the quality of the data collected. We have seen the market shift during this time, and truly believe the future of study design and real-world evidence generation is upon us. The enormous amount of healthcare data generated each year claims data, lab data, data from patient support programs, registries, consortium/foundations, and much more.
Where things get interesting is the ability to bring them all together into a common data model to ingest structured and unstructured data from across the health care ecosystem. By bringing together disparate sources of data and combining them in one central location with analytic tools, data visualization, and, predictive insights we are providing clients with powerful intelligence at their fingertips to transform real-world research; UBC calls this tool MOSAIC, which leverages 30+ years of scientific expertise and knowledge to build and implement programs of this scale and complexity.
With the industry's focus on decentralized studies leveraging virtual trial technologies, ePRO, apps, and devices as well as optimizing the speed of novel products and therapies to market, we believe that a strong real-world technology and infrastructure is critical to move swiftly from evidence generation through to characterizing successful outcomes.