COVID-19 has changed clinical trials for the better, says Medidata

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The pandemic forced clinical trial sponsors to change their processes, with a more technology-driven approach and, according to a new study by Medidata, the sector is now "stronger than ever" as a result.

The study, based on interviews conducted earlier this year with 400 clinical trial executives from the UK, France, Germany, and Switzerland, found that more than a third (37%) ranked better outcomes of trials within the top three areas of improvement since COVID-19 emerged.

Meanwhile, 36% said recruitment and enrolment of subject into trials were also improved, with patients reporting better experiences with participation, and almost all (99.7%) thought that all or some improvements to the clinical trial process as a result of the pandemic will be here to stay.

Among the changes, were greater use of decentralised clinical trials (DCTs), which were a major factor in allowing clinical research to continue during the early stages of the pandemic, aided by technologies that allowed patients to take part in their own homes.

The result has been "a more streamlined and efficient operating model, with the patient at the centre," according to the report.

Medidata found that 43% of trials deployed at least one DCT technology before the pandemic, but that has now risen to 55% and is predicted to climb further to 66% in the next five years.

Among the benefits cited by respondents were better compliance with regulations, improved recruitment and retention of participants, and greater patient engagement, according to Medidata.

It is clear that clinical trials are also becoming more reliant on technologies like wearables and artificial intelligence, with 92% of the executives saying trials in their countries always or frequently reply on technology.

When asked what the key industry trends would be over the next five years, patient centricity came out on top, with 42% of respondents ranking this within the top three trends. Increased use of simulation technologies and AI (40%), and improved access to clinical trials (38%), also featured highly.

"Our new research shows the resilience of the industry, how it implemented its learnings from the pandemic and how it is embracing technology for the benefit of patients," said Pete Buckman, head of professional services at Medidata.

"By continuing to challenge current models, investing in new technologies and collaborating across all stakeholders, the industry can further improve clinical trial processes and, in turn, the outcomes."