TrialJectory, a company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) in a digital health platform that matches cancer patients with trials, recently conducted a survey of patients. The company reports it conducted the survey in order to gain insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their treatment decision-making, among other things.
The notable findings unearthed in the survey include:
- About 66% of patients want to be more involved in their care-related treatment decisions as a result of the pandemic.
- Most (60%) indicated they would be likely to go ahead with a healthcare decision not recommended by their physician.
- Nearly all (93% said they would be willing to participate in a clinical trial now.
- About 33% said telemedicine (despite its convenience during COVID-19) in their opinion has decreased their level of care.
Tzvia Bader, TrialJectory CEO and cofounder, spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about the survey, and what it might mean for the future of cancer treatment and research.
OSP: Could you please talk about some of the reasons why TrialJectory decided to undertake this survey?
TB: Cancer patients were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Treatments were delayed, the frequency of appointments decreased and were fully transitioned to telemedicine visits.
Data surrounding these adjustments to care have been documented at an industry-level but seem to lack the patient perspective. The voice of the patients is too often overlooked by the industry; TrialJectory needed to hear and share the needs of cancer patients. How were they affected? What adjustments did they need to make? Has the status of their treatment journey changed, and, if so, how?
We decided to undertake this survey in the hopes that we might gain better insight into their experiences and how they now approach their care and help the industry take the appropriate measurements to accommodate the needs of the patients.
OSP: Please share any notable, or surprising, findings from the survey.
OSP: There were a few surprises in the survey data, but perhaps the most notable was that over 60% of respondents indicated they would move forward with a healthcare decision not recommended by their physician. That’s quite compelling. Not only does it validate the trend we’re seeing among patients taking a proactive role in their healthcare, but it reinforces the need for resources like TrialJectory — user-friendly platforms that deliver clinically trusted information.
OSP: COVID-19 obviously caused disruptions for every patient; could you please share how challenges created by the pandemic might be unique or more difficult for oncology patients?
TB: Cancer patients are already immunocompromised, putting them at a much higher risk of contracting worse illnesses from common infections. Given their increased susceptibility, potential exposure to dangerous infections like COVID-19 needed to be avoided at all costs, resulting in the delay and cancellation of appointments and procedures.
On the other hand, patients are fighting cancer which is not only deadly but makes timing critical. Late diagnosis and delayed treatment immediately become a matter of life and death. Therefore, we know that the quality of care during the pandemic decreased, leaving them to own their journey in order to improve the quality of care.
OSP: You mention a drive to increase the voice of oncology patients in the research process, led by the patients themselves. Could you please talk a little bit about that, and why it’s important to include patient perspectives along the research process?
TB: Patients are more proactive than ever when it comes to their healthcare. Access to readily available information means patients are better educated and have increased confidence when it comes to communicating their wants and needs to their doctor.
What patients are missing are tools, such as TrialJectory, that will be personalized to their conditions and will provide them with all the relevant data and information to make treatment decisions. At the same time, physicians acknowledge their bandwidth is even more limited; therefore, they support, and even encourage, the patient to search and share results about new treatment options.
When it comes to the patient impact on clinical research, it’s pretty simple — without the patients, research does not happen. The advancement of new cancer treatments requires inclusion of the patient, across multiple phases of trial delivery. Data is great, but today, study success requires the analysis and application of real-world data (RWD).
It’s no longer effective to just make assumptions about how the patient will engage. Introducing the patient voice early and often during study planning aids in the removal of recruitment barriers which ultimately helps to accelerate getting life-saving drugs to market.
OSP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TB: The biggest take-aways from our findings are that:
- COVID has forever changed the healthcare ecosystem.
- Cancer patients are, and will continue to become, more engaged which will organically result in a more collaborative approach to treatment journey decision-making.
The “democratization of healthcare” isn’t just a bunch of ‘buzz words’ it’s a methodology fueled by patient expectation — so let’s do our best to give them a seat at the table.