Finding, recruiting, and retaining patients in clinical research has always presented its share of challenges—and those challenges can be even more daunting when a decentralized clinical trial (DCT) is involved. Technology that better connects patients and sites, and provides them with useful information about their participation, can make a huge difference.
Matt Miller, CEO of StudyKIK (a patient recruitment and retention tech company acquired by Syneos Health in 2021), spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about the company’s mission to streamline enrollment, better inform patients, and forge stronger connections along the pipeline.
OSP: Please tell us a bit about StudyKIK—how it got started, key areas of specialties, and how the company evolved prior to the union with Syneos Health.
MM: StudyKIK was founded in 2014, largely driven by the three following factors:
- There was not a central place online where people who were interested in joining a clinical trial could go and find easily understandable information.
- There was not a technology platform that effectively connected patients and sites while providing the necessary tools for sites to communicate with patients while reporting enrollment data back to their study sponsors.
- All existing recruitment companies made it difficult to have enrollment services to begin which wasted precious time needed to enroll time-sensitive trials.
StudyKIK created an e-commerce platform that allowed sites to easily begin enrollment services and have potential participants within 24 hours. Upon launching, StudyKIK specialized in a few therapeutic areas based on patient access through our patient communities, including dermatology and respiratory. We quickly grew patient access through our social media patient communities based on where there was a great deal of development.
OSP: What makes Syneos Health and StudyKIK a noteworthy combination—how do the two organizations complement each other?
MM: Accelerating product development by better connecting patients, sites, and communities, StudyKIK boosts Syneos Health’s ability to deliver technology-enabled, insight-powered solutions. The company complements Syneos Health by providing them access to millions of participants through its patient communities and comprehensive technology for patient recruitment, retention, eConsent, and study companion applications. Together, the combination offers clinical trial sponsors a complete technology platform with a guiding trial solution to streamline timelines while ensuring full support of research sites.
Additionally, the companies’ combined solutions accelerate product development by improving stakeholder experiences, realizing efficiencies in patient recruitment, engagement, improved access, and diversity.
OSP: What’s happened since you announced the acquisition back in September—any notable achievements you’d like to share?
MM: StudyKIK and Syneos Health have been working tirelessly to offer the industry the most valuable offering – one no other CRO offers. Since the announcement, we have been moving extremely quickly to implement these synergies as they positively impact trial participants’ overall experience in a trial.
The acquisition of StudyKIK was also strategic to growing the Syneos Health Dynamic Assembly network – an open ecosystem of best-of-breed data and technology collaborators – designed to strategically address the nuances of unique customer engagements. This “always-on” innovation environment realizes synthesized insights across the product lifecycle – a core focus for Syneos Health this year.
OSP: Could you share your perspective of how the clinical trial landscape has evolved in recent years?
MM: The industry has undergone, and is continuing to undergo, constant needed changes and progressions to offer study participants a better overall trial experience. These changes have come in the form of research sites having better technology solutions to support their own operations and recruitment. Study participants have greater access to clinical trial information which allows for informed decisions on which trial to join.
Trial design has also greatly evolved over the past few years to allow for more conveniences for patients, streamlining operations at research sites, and meeting the patient where they are through decentralized solutions and offerings. The outbreak of COVID-19 accelerated this as trial sponsors needed to quickly implement trial design changes to account for participants and site staff health but keep trial progression going.
Additionally, technology advancements in clinical trials have proven beneficial to the recruitment process, increasing enrollment while improving diversity and inclusion since it expands the geographic availability of participants. Decentralized Solutions from Syneos Health bring clinical trials closer to the patient, using technology and data insights to create new ways to accelerate patient access, improve retention and increase diversity.
OSP: Specifically, what role have technology tools played in the advancement of clinical research?
MM: Together, Syneos Health and StudyKIK offer sites and sponsors access to technology-enabled, insight-powered solutions that accelerate clinical trial recruitment, retention, and diversity. Specifically, Syneos Health seamlessly integrates innovative solutions across each stage of the product lifecycle – from providing best-in-home mobile nursing services through Illingworth Research Group, a Syneos Health company, to consulting on the right wearables for a trial to advance various aspects of clinical research.
OSP: How have these tools benefitted trial teams?
MM: These tools have benefited trial teams as they resulted in greater access to in-demand patients for their trials, have experienced higher retentions rates while collecting data from participants remotely, and helped increase investigator-to-patient engagement. All these benefits lead to stronger outcomes for the overall trial.
OSP: Can you think of any additional challenges these technologies have presented?
MM: Even though there has been significant growth in these areas, there is still a great deal of education and adoption needed by much of the industry. Technology is growing rapidly and having the industry stay focused on what is best for participants and sites can be a constant struggle due to the sheer volume of possible technology solutions available. Ensuring we are offering easy-to-use solutions that make trials easier and not more complex for patients and sites is a constant challenge.
OSP: Please talk about areas of opportunity for more progress in clinical research, and how you think tech could help.
MM: Technology has already changed the landscape of clinical trials, but there is an opportunity for more progress. A prime example is unifying the technology platforms that research sites use on a daily basis will bring great value to overall clinical trial execution as this will streamline site operations, provide data more clearly to sponsors, and allow for compensation to sites and patients to move quicker.
Another opportunity is to focus on what is best for trial participants and develop additional ways those who need trial information can gain access to it while having the highest level of support when considering joining a trial. Much has been developed in this area, but there is room to build on existing resources.