3 ways artificial intelligence can improve the clinical trial process

artificial intelligence healthcare

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to make significant advances, the leaders of clinical trials should not underestimate its capabilities for improving patient recruitment, retention, and health outcomes.

The clinical research industry has historically been slow to adopt cutting-edge technology in everyday operations and in many areas continues to use spreadsheets, word processing documents, and clunky database software. A big reason is that, outside of major medical research centres and biotechnology/pharmaceutical/medical device companies, organisations that are interested in offering clinical research as a patient care option have not had many technological resources provided to them to efficiently find, recruit, and retain patients who could benefit from participating in a study.

While those organisations see value in new digital tools, many remain on the sidelines because of the cost and time of trying to integrate the technology on their own. The risk is perceived to be too high and the return on investment uncertain.

The good news is that things are changing. A new wave of AI-powered software and applications is making the clinical research process faster and easier for providers, while increasing access to innovative treatments for patients. These tools hold the promise of revolutionising clinical trials in three ways:

1. AI technology can accelerate clinical trial patient recruitment

One of the biggest challenges that clinical trial sponsors face is identifying and recruiting patients to participate in a study. Powerful technology is now available that connects electronic record systems across multiple providers, helping to identify patients who are most likely to be eligible for a clinical trial. The best part is that today’s AI-driven software improves over time, using powerful algorithms that learn and gradually get better at collecting, organising, and analysing patient data.

ObjectiveHealth has successfully used these tools. With a long history of being involved with clinical trials for the treatment of liver disease, including non-alcoholic steatophepatitis, using AI-driven technology helps clinical trial co-ordinators examine patient health records for risk factors like diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, obesity, and other abnormal biomarkers — and quickly identify potential candidates.

From there, the trial co-ordinators — working in partnership with doctors at a private practice, hospital, or medical research institution — can flag the most promising candidates in advance of a scheduled doctor visit, during which the doctor can mention the opportunity and gauge the patient’s interest. This formidable combination of screening technology and human interaction can dramatically help to increase trial recruitment and participation and speed up clinical development.

2. Advanced analytics applications can increase patient retention

Recruiting and identifying patients is one of the first hurdles to clear in a clinical trial. The next is retaining enough patients throughout the duration of the trial. New technology can help increase retention much higher than the industry average of around 70%.

Advanced analytics platforms can provide trial sponsors and on-site teams with real-time data to gain a deeper insight into the entire clinical trial process. It allows them to continually monitor the progress of patients, identify potential roadblocks to continued participation, and understand the underlying causes of any issue that may arise. If a clinical research study continues to experience impediments to success, sponsors may be able to use insights from the data to modify their parameters, without impacting the quality of the results.

The technology can organise and make sense of everything from provider notes and scanned records to pathology/lab results and pharmacy data. In short, it enables sponsors and on-site teams to be proactive rather than reactive, leading to a higher percentage of successful trials.

3. Predictive analytics can help identify at-risk patients

It is estimated that only about 3% of our country’s physicians take part in clinical trials. Imagine how many more lives could be saved or health outcomes improved if the clinical trial industry could increase that participation rate. A growing number of healthcare professionals believe the answer lies in helping more physicians integrate clinical trials into their private practices so they become a natural extension of the care provided to patients.

Here's where AI-driven technology comes into play. Predictive analytics tools — the same ones used to recruit trial candidates — can also identify patients who are at the highest risk for life-threatening diseases or chronic conditions. Integrating that capability into the workflow of private practices can provide more patients access to newly developed drugs and therapies, resulting in better health outcomes.

There are also clear benefits for physicians. When doctors partner with a company that provides both the robust technology and a self-managed team of clinical trial experts who reside in the practice (and manage all logistics related to ongoing trials), they provide an invaluable, and possibly life-saving, service to their patients.

AI-powered technology in the clinical trial industry is here to stay. As the technology continues to evolve, it will create even greater opportunities to advance the clinical trial process, resulting in scientific breakthroughs that will make a positive impact on the health outcomes of patients.

Josh O’Rourke
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Josh O’Rourke
8 June, 2023