The Power of Data: How to Unlock New Insights and Efficiencies

3-minute read

There has been significant focus in recent years on the processing capabilities of new technologies for managing vast amounts of trial data; this was revisited at NEXT London this year with multiple sessions highlighting the potential this data offers and the associated challenges. Clinical trial success relies on good-quality data to generate insights for researchers. Medidata’s VP of Patient Engagement, Alicia Staley, highlighted how “data is critical for us, it unlocks a lot of [the] questions that we have”. But Staley cautioned that we need to start “repurposing data in new ways to really benefit […] everybody […] in that ecosystem” of clinical trials. Staley’s remarks reiterate the impact of efficient data collection and the need for seamlessly integrated technologies—not just for the patient’s experience and the benefits they reap from new treatments, but for alleviating the burden of clinical trial organizers and researchers.

Digital technology’s enhanced role in clinical trial studies is opening a number of exciting new avenues within clinical research data collection, such as the ability to collect real-world data (RWD) and link it to clinical trials with the potential to break down silos. In a session concentrating on the links between RWD and clinical trial data, Ben McConnochie, Director of Strategic Development at Medidata AI noted that “the way we currently generate evidence with clinical research is not sustainable” as “the burden of evidence generation is increasing”. McConnochie noted that “the experience for patients is getting longer, more complicated, and ultimately more burdensome”. But there’s already easily-accessible “real-world” information from routine healthcare interactions, such as electronic medical records and more general data on social determinants on health. McConnochie reports that real-world data is already widely used in the industry and 95% of FDA NDA submissions last year included it in some form. As sponsors continue to realize the immense value of linking RWD to their clinical trial data, there are strong signs that linkage adoption will keep accelerating across all sectors of the life sciences industry.

It’s clear that clinical trials today have more built-in complexities than ever before as researchers grapple with a greater scope of questions. But the same level of scrutiny has not always been applied to managing patient experience as a result of this increased workload. Stephen Nabarro, Head of Clinical Operations and Data Management at Cancer Research UK, compared this to an ornate Christmas tree. Every year, families continue to pile more baubles and tinsel onto the tree without taking the time to remove their old decorations. The same principle must be applied to clinical trials; collecting large sets of data is inefficient unless researchers can reap meaningful insights that directly influence the outcome of trials and remove ineffective data collection methods.

Then there’s the practical issue of managing all the data. PT&R’s Vivienne Van de Walle expressed concern that many systems currently implemented by sponsors for clinical research sites are “working in silos” which creates a serious roadblock when trying to unleash the potential of data. Van de Walle noted that research sites are dealing on a daily basis with 40+ different platforms—meaning there were 40+ different URLs, 40+ different usernames, 40+ different passwords, and multiple entry of the same data into different platforms with the same protocol since these platforms don’t communicate.

This has proven to be a serious obstacle when trying to recruit physicians into this field, while around 70% who are recruited to support trials stop after their first experience. Medidata’s Dan Braga, VP of Product Management for medical imaging solutions, noted that one of the main concerns was around “how much data entry was involved”. This is where tools such as Medidata Data Studio have the potential to streamline these processes by bringing multiple platforms into a single user interface, allowing researchers and physicians involved in trials to work at a faster pace.

We have a responsibility to find the best ways to harness the raw potential of large data sets. New, emerging technologies are beginning to demonstrate significant value for researchers to accelerate research and bring new treatments to patients much faster.