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Conversations On the Ground—Traditional CROs vs. Virtual CROs

Delve Health’s upper management is currently attending the Drug Information Association’s (DIA) 2022 Global Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. While we are taking all the necessary precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19, we are very happy to be on the ground and in-person for this meeting, after a two-year absence.

We hadn’t been on-site long and we’ve already had some very interesting and informative conversations with fellow attendees, one of which was regarding the “pros” of virtual research organizations (CROs), such as Delve Health, and the “cons” of traditional CROs. 

Traditional CROs vs. Virtual CROs

The clinical research industry is full of diverse people, roles, and organizations—all of whom have a different role to play in the bigger picture. No matter how different some of our job duties are or how different our place of employment is, there are challenges we are all experiencing, such as: increasing expenses; low recruitment rates; and poor engagement/non-compliance. Whenever traditional methods seem to be failing, we turn to new options that may just be “game changers.” Many clinical trial sponsors have turned to virtual and/or hybrid solutions for assistance.

While many are experimenting with “what’s new,” there has been a clear shift towards virtual CROs—sometimes referred to as decentralized clinical trials (DCT) organizations. Given the technological and medical advancements made in the last few decades, we are now at a crossroads nobody could have imagined even a decade ago. These technology platforms and solutions make virtual CROs a more streamlined and cost-effective way to execute clinical trials. However, like we discussed with colleagues at DIA 2022, there are “pros and cons” to consider when researching your options for moving forward.

Traditional CRO Challenges

While antidotally speaking with our colleagues on-site, we hear the same challenges over and over again. Two of the biggest concerns we often hear are the difficulties regarding patient recruitment and patient retention. These two issues, specifically, seem to remain challenging for traditionally run clinical trials, despite the industry’s efforts to increase awareness of studies being conducted in general. This is largely attributed to the need for large groups of participants and the inconveniences patients face with traditionally executed clinical studies (i.e., in-person visits, travel times, long waiting times, etc). For some patients, even just the requirement to travel to a specific site (lengthy travel times, lack of travel reimbursement, etc.) is enough of a deterrent to prevent them from consenting to participate in a clinical study.

These kinds of time constraints and financial burdens are disruptive to participant’s personal life, and therefore frustrating to a patient, making traditional clinical trials a less feasible option.

Virtual CRO Solutions

We also discussed what possible solutions virtual models may offer. Practicality and accessibility were at the top of the list, even though many of us acknowledged that some virtual studies are centralized around a specific clinical research site. However, many were also quick to bring up that most VROs do not require patients to physically visit a site at all. This approach is especially beneficial for those afflicted by rare or very serious illnesses, as they can participate in clinical trials that may improve their quality of life, even if they are unable to travel far away from home.

Many of our conversation participants admitted they were more comfortable with VROs, like  Delve Health who have hybrid options. Some clinical studies will need to require some type of in-person visits., Delve Health has a network of over 1 million medical professionals, worldwide, that we can deploy to make in-home visits. These “mobile” medical professionals are sent to patients’ homes in order to collect samples or perform physical exams. While not 100% virtual, this hybrid model still allows patients to maintain control of their own schedules and avoid any major routine disruptions or other inconveniences.

What do Virtual CROs offer?

Virtual CROs, like Delve Health, can help researchers access a wider patient pool, because geography is now moot as patient’s aren’t required to visit specific sites and medical professionals can be sent to them, if needed, instead. The other, significant benefit of removing the barrier of geography is that underrepresented populations (e.g., whether by race, gender, sexual orientation, or geographically rural populations) will now also have greater access to clinical studies. This, in turn, means a more diverse patient population is now accessible.

Virtual trial models may also offer improved data quality, given that mobile reporting and wearable devices can transfer information in real-time vs. being reported manually. Delve Health’s platform also has the ability to customize algorithms to meet your study’s specific data needs—making the usage of raw data fully customizable to your unique trial.

Virtual CROs also help to reduce study costs by optimizing a study’s design and accelerating enrollment timelines. They also eliminate the need for certain overhead costs on multiple research sites, staffing, or storage—which not only cuts costs, but saves time by increasing efficiency.

Delve Deeper

Delve Health’s Clinical StudyPal app is a fully-customizable and will integrate with virtually any platform our clients are already using. Our web-based software fits any type of clinical trial and simplifies the implementation of patient engagement. It serves as an important tool, assisting with patient recruitment and increasing patient compliance and retention.

With more than 100 clinical research sites currently using Delve Health’s platform to screen thousands of patients every month, clinical research teams are continuing to forage new paths in order to continue to discover new treatments for hundreds of different medical conditions—a mission made easier via today’s technological solutions. Delve Health can help your clinical studies run more efficiently, cutting operational costs while also improving the patient experience overall.

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