Researchers at DT Consulting, an Indegene company, surveyed senior clinical ops leaders whose remit includes digital transformation at 12 large to midsize pharmaceutical organizations. The survey revealed almost all companies see optimizing the customer experience for trial participants and investigators as very or extremely important, but the level of focus on improvement and the strategies adopted vary across the industry.
To understand the implications of the findings, Outsourcing-Pharma checked in with Francesca Properzi, director clinical and medical research at DT Consulting, an Indegene company, and Ram Yeleswarapu, senior vice president, enterprise clinical solutions at Indegene, to discuss the report.
OSP: What surprised you most about the findings of the study?
FP: A surprising element is the clear ambition and interest of senior leaders in clinical ops to improve patient experiences with digital technologies and assure inclusion and diversity requirements are met for clinical trials regulatory validation.
While most firms have dedicated budgets to digital transformation projects, just half of them dedicate budgets to patient experience improvement even though they say it’s very important. The challenge in aligning budgets internally to deliver on digital capability with consistency is significant for most large pharma companies.
OSP: What can the industry learn from leaders in digital excellence maturity?
FP: According to the CT-DEMA survey, the two best-in-class companies consistently prioritize certain digital capabilities over others. One example is digital tools for study design, for which maturity scores are significantly higher for these two best-in-class companies.
Study design is one of those elements of clinical trials which is becoming crucial more than ever. It is the key step to assuring that any technological implementation including digital biomarkers is successful. One of the best practices deployed is to integrate patient voices at early stages in order to avoid problems with protocol adherence and a negative effect on retention rates at a later stage.
OSP: Why should companies try to accelerate towards digital excellence?
FP: Digital technologies are the future of clinical trials. We have lessons to learn from COVID-19 vaccine trials that were completed in an unprecedentedly short time. We want this reduced time for drug development to become the gold standard for all trials across different therapeutic areas and geographies. Large pharma firms that will not accelerate digital transformation will miss this opportunity and miss the chance to partner with the best-performing clinical trial sites and investigators.
RY: The shift to digital transformation within clinical development is inevitable, but will play out over a period of time and adoption rates and the pace will depend on several factors. The factors include but are not limited to, the size of the company, how narrow or broad is their business strategy and the choice of indications that they are pursuing, their culture and willingness to adapt to change, and their legacy and appetite for risk.