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DIA 2017 – the search for true patient-centricity

2017 was my first year attending DIA. Having attended many medical technology tradeshows in the past I was excited to see what DIA 2017 had in store.

I kicked off Monday morning by attending ‘The Future of Patient Engagement: Measuring What Matters’ session, part of DIA’s 2017 Patient Engagement Track. As a Market Analyst for MRN I’m particularly interested in understanding what is meant by the frequently used term ‘Patient-centricity’. The discussion focused on how the drug development process from compound discovery to approval can consider the needs of the patient at each step.

I found it insightful and moving to listen to the discussion between patient, industry and regulatory experts as they discussed the requirements and practicalities of providing a patient focused drug development pathway. Whilst the content of the discussion was undeniably about ‘patient-centricity’ I felt it focused on how drug development could be more patient-centric, rather than how the clinical trial design should adapt and provide flexibility and ease for the patient. According to TUFTS Center for the Study of Drug Development, the mean clinical development time from Phase 1 through Phase 3 to FDA approval is 8.4 years1. This is a considerable investment of time for a patient and ensuring that a clinical trial can be incorporated into a patient’s life without causing significant disruption by pharmaceutical sponsors and CROs showing an understanding that a patient has a life, family and work is vital for ‘patient-centricity’.

With all stakeholders searching for the holy grail of shortening study duration and getting new drugs to market faster the exhibition floor was buzzing with innovations from both multinational organizations and start-ups focused on streamlining aspects of the clinical trial process, such as; patient recruitment solutions, informed consent technologies, electronic clinical outcome assessments (eCOA), electronic patient reported outcomes (ePRO) and patient retention support to name but a few.

Starting at the beginning of the clinical trial process, patient recruitment was a key focus of many of the innovations on offer. As a recent Q&A in Applied Clinical Trials with Jeremy Sohn, VP, Global Head of Digital Business Development & Licensing at Novartis stated, ‘patient centricity is not about clinical trial recruitment2. This sentiment is important to remember as we consider the wave of patient recruitment solutions that are entering the market and the impact they will have.

With increasingly strict inclusion and exclusion criteria simply finding patients to participate in clinical trials is obviously a challenge. Although there is variance in the final offering, companies such as IBM Watson Health, Elligo Health Research and ePatient Finder all exhibited patient recruitment solutions that utilise patient Electronic Medical Records (EMR) to identify potential patients for clinical trials. The use of big data analytics or artificial intelligence to quickly and effectively review structured and unstructured data allows patients to be identified quickly but is confined to the information hospitals already hold.

To provide true ‘patient-centricity’ how do we then make the identified patients want to be involved in clinical trials? Following identification, comes informed consent which can be stressful and confusing for patients as they try and understand the vast and detailed information about the study they are about to undertake. Patients are often reliant on their physician to decipher and explain the information requiring visits to the hospital which adds additional burden to the trial.

On Tuesday morning, I attended the session ‘Sharing the Burden’. I found this session one of the most thought provoking of the conference. In a world where electronic, mobile and wearable devices are credited with being the next frontier for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, this session spoke honestly about the challenges faced by all stakeholders as these technologies enter the market. Paul O’Donohoe, Director of Health Outcomes at CRF Health spoke about how, when implemented correctly, the use of eCOA can reduce the cognitive burden of clinical trials for both patients and sites. In addition to this Deborah Collyer, a leader in healthcare advocacy presented the patient voice and spoke to how all of these innovations need to work for the patient. CRF Health were also exhibiting at the show, showcasing (amongst other things) an eConsent system - TrialConsent. The ‘TrialConsent platform promotes understanding with tiered information delivery3, enabling patients to review all informed consent information in a user-friendly application. Amongst others, Quorum were also exhibiting their eConsent system QConsent, an IRB-integrated cloud-based consenting solution which engages clinical trial participants4.These types of system further help patients understand and engage in the clinical trial process.

DIA2017 was a fantastic event bringing together leaders and new entrants in the drug development sector. Across the discussions and exhibitors it is clear that the pharmaceutical market is focusing on innovation in an effort to get effective drugs to market quickly and safely. Over the coming weeks, I will continue to explore new innovations impacting the market and expanding on the innovations presented at DIA2017. I will cover what they are, the magnitude of impact they are likely to have and how the sector can progress to a truly patient-centric approach to drug development.


1 = Parexel Biopharmaceutical R&D Statistical Sourcebook 2016/2017. Statistics on Drug Development: Cost/Complexity, Development Time, Success Rates, P329.

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Nicola Goatman

Market Analyst for MRN

Posted by:
Zara Miles
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