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Innovation in Clinical Trials - My Takeaways from DPharm 2019

It’s been a little under a week since my team and I departed DPharm 2019 to travel back to our offices (a few short miles, but a bit of travel nonetheless) and my brain is still digesting all of the innovation presented to the crowd of over 400 attendees from leaders in the Pharma and clinical trials industry.


This was my first DPharm, and certainly won’t be my last, but I would be remiss if I wasn’t able to share my takeaways from what was a truly invigorating and inspiring event. Getting the chance to hear from leaders in the industry, fellow champions of digital disruption and innovation in technology, and learning about the many intricate steps of the patient journey within a clinical trial was nothing I will soon forget.


Now let's get to some of the major themes of the conference:


Patient Centricity


One of the key topics covered over the course of the conference was the topic of patient centricity and putting patients at the center of clinical trial operations. This was refreshing to hear as oftentimes in clinical trials, and in the healthcare space in general, the patient’s voice is overlooked and unheard. This leads to gaps in information - and for clinical trials results in high withdrawal and trial dropout rates.


However, clearly, there is a paradigm shift happening in the industry. Most, if not all, speakers at the conference touched upon improving ways to engage patients or enhancing the patient experience throughout the clinical trial journey. On the morning of Day Two during the DPharm ‘Today Show’ that invited executives from three different companies to discuss their plans for innovation, Sy Pretorius, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of Parexel, explained how the organization completed transformed and rebranded to put the patient at the center of everything they do and even went as far to launch their own patient innovation center to listen to ways to enhance the patient experience.


However, that isn’t to say everything is perfect. A panel from the afternoon of Day Two titled ‘Weighing Your Options in Considering Clinical Research from a Patient Perspective’ challenged the room to identify opportunities for patient support along the trial journey. One panelist and patient advocate Danya Kaye, Director of Business Development at Inspire, recounted that one ‘missing link’ during her trial experience was the follow-up for patient support after the conclusion of the trial. Undoubtedly, sponsors and CROs have room to improve in the future.


The Siteless Trial


Another interesting topic covered at the conference was the idea of the completely siteless trial. During the afternoon of Day One, Kent Thoelke, EVP, Chief Scientific Officer at PRA Health Sciences, and Dr. John Whang, IET Head, Cardiovascular and Metabolism at Johnson & Johnson, discussed leveraging mobile technologies to use clinical research as a care option in direct-to-patient trials. They jointly announced that PRA Health Sciences and Johnson & Johnson were working together to change the industry by offering the first fully virtual, or completely ‘siteless’ clinical trial.


As patients live up to an average of 2 hours away from clinical trial sites, the virtual and siteless trials are wanted and needed by patients to be able to participate fully, especially when a trial is an option of care for their disease. This will be something to watch moving forward into 2020 as it will be interesting to see what other sponsors and CROs have in their plans for the future.


One Topic I Wish I Heard More About


As I attended the many breakout sessions offered there was one topic, in particular, I felt went uncovered, and that was research assistant burnout. Clinical research assistants play a crucial role in ensuring the success of clinical trials. But as a result of juggling a myriad of responsibilities - from confirming data integrity to managing patient check-ins to overall oversight of trial tasks - they are easily burnt out and dissatisfied, leading to costly turnover and failure to complete trials on-time and under budget. Moving forward, I think this is something that the industry needs to introspectively look at to improve the efficiency of trials overall.


Based on the topics covered, it was exciting to see how much opportunity there is for technological innovation. I am proud to be working for a company such as eCare Vault that is looking to cause disruption and innovation in the industry through our patient-centric HIPAA compliant collaboration and workflow optimization platform, through which we can support the patient and the study team along the entire clinical trial journey from pre-screening to completion of the study, and beyond.


Overall, it was a great experience attending DPharm and I look forward to next years conference. For those of you I met this year, let’s stay in touch, and I look forward to seeing you again!


About the Author:


Steven Simmons is an experienced inbound, digital, and content marketer with a rich and extensive background in both the enterprise technology software and startup space. As a seasoned Marketing Manager, he is passionate about formulating and executing strategic marketing plans to help build brand awareness and thought leadership reputation for his organization. While he has a passion for traveling the world, Steven is proud to call Boston, MA his home.


Thank you for sharing!