Clinical Trials and Large Healthcare Systems Are a Good Fit but the Details Matter

Amid continued hospital growth and expansion, ensuring common access to research capabilities and technology across the entire network of a health system is necessary for clinical trial success.

Around the world, drug development and clinical trial activity continue to increase in terms of both the number of trials in progress and pace. Consider that, as of September 2021, more than 320,000 clinical trials had already been registered, as compared to 118,000 a decade ago.

It stands to reason that the success of any clinical trial would largely be dependent on the ability of researchers and healthcare organizations to identify trial candidates, recruit those who are eligible and secure their interest in participating. As such, hospital networks are being asked with greater frequency to access their patient networks as new trials commence.

Because clinical trial participants often are reluctant to traveling more than 10 miles outside their location, the larger networks are usually good targets in the eyes of trial organizers. They have a larger number of sites and the ability to offer candidates access to locations that are nearby and convenient.

Major medical centers and hospital organizations having grown exponentially in recent years, partly because of acquisition and private equity investment. It would seem that satisfying trial organizers would have plenty of large organizations to choose from. And today’s expanded networks have access to richer and deeper troves of EMR data, a larger pool of potential trial candidates and a greater number of locations dispersed across a wider geographic area to accommodate would-be participants. All of this points to the potential for more successful and efficiently fielded clinical trial studies.

Not necessarily.

While hospital networks have grown in both size and breadth, there remains a significant disconnect when it comes to the availability of technology and research capabilities across the expanded network. In too many cases, satellite offices simply do not have access to the same capabilities and infrastructure as the hub location. This makes it either difficult or impossible to screen and enroll candidates, capture data from participants as the trial ensues and execute the protocol with consistency. It also hinders researchers from having full visibility into the trial.

Any location within a hospital network should be able to provide the same trial portfolio as headquarters. They should be equipped to rapidly prescreen patients and be able to communicate clinical trial options to providers and patients in near real-time. If for some reason a satellite office cannot provide the necessary research services, there should be a mechanism for the rapid referral of those eligible patients to the main headquarters or another location.

As hospital networks continue to grow, having an overarching strategy and investing in the technology that will allow the network to operate as a singular research network must be a priority. In recent years, clinical trials have not only grown in numbers, but also increased in complexity. A connected network will also help the hospital network more efficiently determine which trials are appropriate for their patient population.

Those with responsibility for growth and integration initiatives should consider the following questions in evaluating the current capabilities of the network and/or overseeing continued expansion:

  • What is our strategic and tactical plan to operate as one network?
  • What is our data standardization strategy?
  • Do we currently possess centralized capabilities for data aggregation, trial feasibility, network site selection, rapid patient identification, analytics and reporting?
  • Are we standardizing fundamental research processes, such as patient identification and population feasibility, across the network?
  • How can we ensure satellite offices have the same level of clinical research capabilities as the main campus?

For clinical trials to be executed efficiently and effectively, bringing new life-improving and saving medications to the market, hospital networks need to ensure there exists a seamless cohesion and connectivity across the entirety of the network, from the largest hub to the smallest, most remote satellite location.

Jason Baumgartner is CEO and Founder of BEKhealth, a provider of software solutions for enhancing clinical research processes and improving the outcomes of clinical trials.


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