The idea of “patient centricity” is nothing new in healthcare. It might go by a different name (patient focused, patient centered, patient first, etc.) but the idea is the same: All services and solutions, from treatment protocols down to the design of an advertisement, should be designed with the patient at the center. It means including patients in discussions, and getting their insights and feedbacks, and then acting based on those insights in such a way that the patient’s needs and preferences are respected. In a truly patient-centric environment, patients are partners, with the idea that by making them partners, engagement increases.

While there are some who believe that patient centricity is little more than a fad, or that patient perspectives are too subjective to be truly useful, in most healthcare organizations it appears to be here to stay. In fact, the concept has reached well beyond patient care and into all other aspects of healthcare, including clinical trials. Clinical researchers and the pharmaceutical industry already understand that involving patients in clinical trial development leads to better research protocols, better recruitment, and higher retention rates.

That being said, becoming even more patient-centric can help clinical researchers uncover even more insights into what it’s like to live with and manage specific conditions, and adjust their research and development process accordingly. By developing eCOA clinical trials, the process of gaining those insights becomes much easier.

Using eCOA to Involve Patients

Clinical researchers are always looking for ways to better engage patients in research trials. Most trials never reach completion due to a lack of patient engagement, so it’s become a priority to keep patients engaged in trials until they reach their conclusion.

Using electronic methods of data collection offer many advantages that support engagement while also putting the patient’s needs first. For example:

eCOA fits into patient lifestyles. Simply put, most patients are unlikely to participate in a clinical trial unless it’s easy to do so. Given the demands of modern life, most patients are going to be reluctant to join a trial that requires recording data on paper in addition to frequent clinic visits. Given that most people own smartphones – or at the very least, personal computers – and are somewhat tech savvy, they want clinical trial participation to be as manageable as the rest of their lives. Inputting data into an application that’s intuitive and easy-to-use is far preferable, and more in line with patient expectations.

eCOA can provide assistance. One of the most common complaints about clinical trials is that sponsors don’t always provide patients with the assistance they need to be fully engaged. Assistance can mean everything from transportation to clinic appointments to sending reminders to take medication or record data. Using eCOA solutions can help with these issues, by sending push reminders about tasks to be completed, providing a schedule of appointments and tests, and even offering links to request help with transportation or other needs. By putting everything in once place, and giving patients tools to access the information they need, the study is likely to be more successful.

eCOA works with emerging technologies. There is a growing trend toward incorporating the IoT, primarily in the form of wearable devices, into clinical research. Data collected from smart watches, fitness trackers, and other devices, can be transferred via Bluetooth to the clinical trial application, eliminating the need for patients to record their own data and making it simple for them to participate in trials. While there are still questions and concerns about the accuracy and security of these technologies and how they can be incorporated into clinical research, it’s likely that they will be used more widely in research within the next few years.

Incorporating electronic solutions into clinical research is a key aspect of patient centricity. Essentially, using these tools represents a shift toward meeting patients where they are, and taking their needs and preferences into consideration, which is the exact definition of patient centricity. Not only will making participation easier provide better insights into what it means to live with a specific condition, but it will also make the process of clinical research a more enjoyable and beneficial experience for all involved.