Uncapping Capacity: Solving for Technology Overload in Clinical Trials

Melissa Easy, VP & General Manager of Clinical Technologies, IQVIA

The clinical trial landscape has greatly benefited from technological innovations over the past few decades. Innovation has expanded remote monitoring capabilities, patient recruitment tactics and the decentralization of clinical trials. However, one of the greatest hurdles that clinical researchers are currently facing is a deluge of disparate solutions across the clinical trial workflow. For example, surveys reveal that 60% of clinical research sites are using up to, and over, 20 systems on a daily basis. The technology overload affecting clinical trial research sites is causing immense complexity, leading to increased staff burnout and reduced site capacity, ultimately resulting in longer research timelines and fewer treatments for patients in need. 

The abundance of technology and vendors at play across the clinical research landscape creates a complex environment. Researchers frequently cite accessing and managing multiple sponsor systems as a top challenge in conducting and completing clinical trial research. At the same time, research and development spending on clinical services and technology has almost doubled. Despite increased investments, many clinical research operations are recording longer study timelines with little to no improvement in outcomes, often a result of added complexity brought on by multiple solutions. 

The challenge of navigating multiple vendors and systems due to varying sponsor preferences is contributing to a serious bandwidth issue in clinical trial research, directly impacting the amount of new treatments that can by studied.

Technology Overload Leads to Burnout, Trial Delays and Reduced Capacity

A primary implication of this complexity is clinical staff burnout and subsequent turnover. Clinical research professionals frequently cite a high workload as a primary factor in burnout. In fact, research shows that work overload triples the risk of burnout in the healthcare setting. Navigating between systems to accommodate the varied sponsor-specific requirements for technology vendor use undoubtedly adds to the already strained workload. 

With the rising complexity brought on by increased technology utilization, clinical trial timelines are experiencing higher rates of delays, which increases costs and adds to the already overflowing backlog of clinical trials. Recent reports suggest that 1 in 5 trials are delayed by more than 40% of their original timelines. The greater the administrative burden on site staff to accommodate navigation between systems, the more clinical timelines and budgets are stretched, potentially affecting further research and access to treatment. 

Trial timeline delays and workforce shortages are increasing, indicating that the industry’s capacity to run clinical trials has reached its limit. Currently, there is an expanding backlog of new clinical trials awaiting activation across sites. The shocking reality is that at any given moment, sites may have anywhere from 30-70 additional trials awaiting activation. The increased amount of pressure this adds to sites can be overwhelming. 

To address this burden, organizations must understand where technology has a positive impact and prioritize solutions that alleviate – rather than add to – the complexity of site operations. 

Alleviating Technology Overload with an Ecosystem Approach

The problem of too much tech has become too large for any individual stakeholder to solve on its own. Pharmaceutical sponsors, contact research organizations and technology vendors must move beyond their own studies and products toward a solution that pulls the clinical trial ecosystem together for site personnel. 

For instance, when a pharmaceutical sponsor or a technology platform developer provides a single sign-on solution that works only for its own trials or products, the burden on sites is only slightly reduced. Alleviating technology overload in clinical trial research requires a means to aggregate, connect and communicate across the wide range of key systems used in all phases of clinical trials. 

The next step is providing a holistic overview of clinical research sites. A single source of truth is required to understand the next steps and processes required for each individual trial. In this situation, a personalized dashboard can provide full visibility of studies, sponsors and systems. This allows sites to navigate seamlessly across the technology ecosystem, to gather a better picture across their landscape of clinical trials. A single place to see and complete priority tasks across clinical trials, no matter the vendor or sponsor, is critical to reducing site burden.

A Single Solution Returns Clinical Trials to Normalcy

Clinical research stakeholders must prioritize a single sign-on solution as the first and most important step to alleviating the burden of multiple applications. Reducing site burden will help the industry increase clinical trial capacity, accelerate research timelines and improve patient outcomes. With a homebase from which to start, sites can spend less time navigating dozens of systems and more time conducting research. This enables sponsors to accelerate trial timelines, enhance data quality, and improve operational oversight. At the same time, technology vendors are able to continuously advance innovations and improve both usability and functionality. 

As clinical research sites continue to reel from overwhelming workloads, workforce shortages and too much technology, stakeholders must leverage technology that provides benefit instead of burden. By bringing access to the clinical technology ecosystem together for sites, the industry can return to optimizing trial performance and improving patients’ lives.

About Melissa Easy

Melissa Easy, Vice President and General Manager of Clinical Technologies at IQVIA, is responsible for the strategy, delivery and development of technology portfolio and technology-enabled services that improve the delivery of clinical trials. She believes we must take advantage of orchestrated technology to bring patients, sites, and sponsors together in a concerted effort to save time, money, and lives. Melissa is a frequent speaker in the industry and has received many awards including PharmaVoice 100 and most recently being named an HBA Luminary.