Advances in global information and communication technologies are being driven by the spread of mobile-broadband services, with particularly high growth rates in developing countries, according to latest statistics.
This presents an unprecedented opportunity for those in the business of running clinical trials. Mobile technology can break down many of the traditional barriers that have stood in the way of including more diverse international communities in clinical research.
The Challenges of Conducting Trials in Developing Countries
The challenges of running a clinical trial – from recruitment through to retention – are amplified in developing countries. Even if you can reach potential trial participants to successfully recruit them, it can be hard to maintain engagement with patients living in remote locations who have little interaction with healthcare professionals. It’s the perfect recipe for poor treatment adherence, lack of engagement with the study, and drop-out before the end of follow-up.
However, as mobile technology continues to be embraced in every corner of the globe, it’s getting easier to communicate with, and collect data from, these hard-to-reach patients.
3 Ways Mobile Helps with Trials in Developing Countries
- Remote communication Mobiles are revolutionizing trial engagement strategies. They can help site staff to communicate with patients remotely between site visits, and offer a simple way to send reminders to arrange appointments, take medication, or provide study updates to maintain motivation. For people who live some distance from their nearest clinical centre, this can be the difference between being able to participate in a trial or not. Exploiting mobile technology for your trial can, therefore, further help to hit recruitment targets.
- Ease of data collection Mobiles can now be used to capture everything from basic patient surveys to data generated by validated wireless-linked devices or wearable technology. At its simplest, mobile technology enables dissemination of study surveys to broader and larger populations, and the recording of signs and symptoms with minimal burden on the patient. And if you’re in a remote area with a patchy internet connection? Simply use an app with the ability to store data until a connection is available and then transmit it back to the study team.
- Cost-effectiveness Implementing mobile technology on a large clinical trial has in the past been something of a headache for the study team, who are typically required to provide and keep track of validated, anonymized, standardized, and expensive mobile devices. With the shift towards a ‘bring your own device’ approach, however, the cost and time burden is considerably reduced; using a device that is familiar tends to be a hit with patients also.
Moving to mobile can break down many of the barriers to conducting trials in developing countries and can expedite clinical research in emerging healthcare markets. Any investment in ensuring that your trial platform is mobile-friendly is, unarguably, well worth the return. It will revolutionize not only interactions with trial participants, but improve recruitment, retention and compliance, and will keep your study staff happier too.