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Preparing for a New Data Future: Platform Needs at Every Company Size

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This blog is part five of a five-part series on the findings of this survey of clinical research technology decision makers. Download Preparing for a New Data Future: A Survey of Clinical Research Technology Decision Makers for comprehensive survey results to guide your unified platform approach to clinical trials.

A rapid shift towards virtualization due to the COVID-19 pandemic, larger volumes of data collection from an increasing number and diverse set of data sources, and the need for sponsors and CROs to gain more complete pictures of trials and to act on data quickly are forcing the industry towards eClinical software solutions that are on unified platforms. Our new survey of key decision makers in clinical research technology examined unified platform needs based on company size. The key findings are as follows:

In general, respondents indicated that the larger and more siloed the organization, the more difficult the shift to an eClinical solution provider’s platform since there may be different eClinical software solutions by therapeutic area and/or region. Smaller or emerging companies are much more willing to consider unified platform solutions that provide integration capabilities across the organization.

While technology leads understand and may push for more platform-based solutions, the challenge is convincing clinical department leads that individual applications on those platforms meet their needs.

“At a small company, [e-clinical software solutions are] integrated across the company. At a large company, it’s siloed into either regions or therapeutic areas, and the others do not even know or care about what they use.”
—Former technical operations product lead, mid-sized life sciences

“I try to drive technology efficiencies throughout the organization, and the platform approach lends itself to that; [it’s a] question...to always put on the table. It’s challenging because a lot of [users] have preferences, and they’re biased from their historical usage.”
—Former technical operations product lead, mid-sized life sciences

Large, established companies
These companies are more likely to consider eClinical solution providers that can integrate with existing architecture and expand platform-like capabilities to their existing point solutions. 

Individual solutions must meet an acceptable level—beyond that, demonstrating unification of clinical data across applications holds strong appeal. Overall, these larger companies are slower to shift trial design or systems to align with new trends or best practices.

Mid-sized, newer companies
With a new set of trials and limited or no legacy technology and data to manage, the aim is to simplify, centralize, and minimize the cost of managing their clinical trial data. There is broad appeal in solutions that allow them to minimize the number of vendors they manage and not invest in large internal IT resources, while still maintaining control and oversight of their clinical data. They are also less likely to have a procurement-driven set of pre-approved vendors, which gives these newer, mid-sized companies greater flexibility than large, established companies when selecting eClinical solution providers.

These types of companies may or may not use CROs to own whole trials or functions. If not, a platform with a broader portfolio that can meet an “acceptable level of functionality” is more appealing. These mid-sized companies are more likely to shift trial design to align with emerging trends (e.g., virtualization).

Respondents also expressed a need for eClinical software solutions to seamlessly connect and share data, and they are willing to embrace cloud solutions given that cloud deployments are now considered standard in many areas relevant to clinical research. A clear preference for architecture built by eClinical solution providers was also identified, and cross-application data availability was considered the most critical attribute. Lastly, respondents also pointed to a critical need for the ability to leverage clinical data across applications and trials, while the capability to ingest, structure, and report on data is a top priority for the industry.

The pharmaceutical industry will continue to evolve and adapt to its increasingly digital environment and move from single and fragmented point solutions to unified platforms. Embracing unified platforms eases the burden on clinical development teams, scales to support large numbers of studies, and allows sponsors to centralize their data to gain powerful insights across trials.

Download Preparing for a New Data Future: A Survey of Clinical Research Technology Decision Makers for comprehensive survey results to guide your unified platform approach to clinical trials.

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Paul Oliver