A Customer-Centric Approach to Clinical Trials

26 March 2012 | Andrea McGonigle, Managing Director, Life Sciences, MSFT group



​The life sciences business environment and model is in a state of accelerating change. More drug approvals occurred in 2011 than any other year in the past decade. Yet, at the same time, there is untapped potential for pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology companies to reap the benefits of the post-reform healthcare market. From discovery to product marketing, from manufacturing and distribution to patients, there are enormous opportunities for life sciences organizations to better leverage technology to create new business models, further differentiate their organization, and thrive in this dynamic environment.

 
Earlier this year, industry leaders from the world’s top life sciences organizations gathered in Princeton, NJ, for a two day forum to discuss the ways in which their organizations are driving innovation in the market. At the same time, participants identified areas in their business where smart thinking, and smart use of technology, can help improve the way they currently do business. One such area is in clinical trial management.
 
Re-thinking clinical trials
 
On day one of the forum, Pfizer’s Craig Lipset, chairman and head of Clinical Innovation, said it best when he summarized that innovation in life sciences is about more than just the finished product; innovation is also about the way in which we look at and improve the processes involved in developing the finished product. He was referring to the somewhat antiquated way in which many of the world’s most innovative life sciences companies approach the clinical trial process. Innovative companies think about the consumer experience every step of the way, and clinical trials should be no different, he said. Putting the patient first through the entire trial process would change everything.
 
According to Lipset, Pfizer is looking at the following key areas that could improve the clinical trial process and move it into the 21st century:
 
Re-evaluating patient engagement
 
According to CenterWatch, 94% of citizens recognize the importance of participating in clinical research in order to assist in the advancement of medical science. Yet 75% of the general public state they have little to no knowledge about the clinical research or participation process (www.ciscrp.org). Pfizer, like other life sciences organizations, recognize that to better engage with potential patients they need to go to where the patients interact – and that is on social media sites. In fact, 71.2% of the U.S. web audience is on Facebook. The question is how can we harness the power of social media to better recruit patients, connect them with one another and encourage them to share their experiences with us and with each other.
 
Electronic data sharing
 
Imagine if patients were able to see their data and learn more about their health in the process, asked Lipset. They would be more likely to participate in their own care. Researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston found that when patients are given access to their data, 9 out of 10 times they are willing to share their electronic health data in an aggregated way. They also recognized that on sites like patientslikeme.com, participants are sharing more than stories - they are sharing quantifiable data, filling out case report forms, and engaging more in their own care process.
 
These observations are fueling Pfizer’s vision for a virtual clinical trial – one where a life sciences organization could recruit from anywhere in the world and allow patients to participate from home and log information online. The process would become faster, cheaper and more accessible, not to mention much easier to recruit participants. With technology platforms like Microsoft HealthVault, Office 365 and Microsoft SharePoint, secure sharing of patient information is possible today.
 
Patients are already online sharing personal data, Lipset noted. Now, we as an industry need to find a way to make it easier for them to share health information.
 
Next month, we’ll look at another hot topic from this year’s forum – collaboration. As we learned, life sciences companies are going beyond internal collaboration practices to form alliances and working groups with partners and, at times, even their competition in order to more rapidly develop and deliver new therapies into the market.
 
Andrea McGonigle
Managing Director, Life Sciences, MSFT group