Oracle and Exco InTouch announced a partnering agreement that will integrate Exco InTouch’s ePRO patient engagement platform with Oracle Health Sciences’ InForm electronic data capture (EDC) system. The combination of the two platforms is expected to deliver enhanced workflow efficiency in clinical trials. For sponsors, the integration promises better data capture for clinical and post-marketing studies while also improving patient retention, adherence, and data quality. But is the partnership truly a win for patients and both companies?
With the integration, data collected from sites and patients, including data captured from medical devices, will be seamlessly integrated. This will result in more accurate and timely reporting and provide an opportunity to leverage smartphone technology, enabling patients to use their own mobile devices in trials. A press release issued by Exco InTouch notes this is particularly valuable in late-phase trials where the cost of provisioning devices can prohibit the use of electronic data capture.
"Combining the two systems has allowed us to remove a duplication of effort,” says Martin Cook, VP of strategic partnerships for Exco InTouch. “It will streamline workflow and also reduce the potential for human error. Once a patient record is created in the Oracle EDC system, data will only need to be entered once. The integration means relevant fields from the patient record will automatically populate Exco InTouch’s ePRO solution, eliminating the need for data input and the associated resolution of data conflicts.”
Cook also notes the partnership will bring benefits to patients as they will find it easier to participate in trials and also have the opportunity to use devices already engrained in their everyday lives. Allowing patients to use mobile technologies has the added benefit of keeping them engaged throughout the trial. Via these devices, patients can be sent information about the trial and instructions on taking medicines, visit reminders, and educational and motivational messages.
“If we look at where we were 10 years ago, the growth in the use of digital technology in trials has been significant,” notes Cook. “Electronic capture of clinical outcome assessments is now recognized as a mainstream method of capturing data, and this partnership demonstrates the confidence we have in the ability of these technologies to bring value to the market, and we look forward to exploring other opportunities to work together.”
The partnership is certainly a win for Exco InTouch. Going forward, when asked if its system can integrate with large EDC systems such as InForm, the answer will be a resounding “yes.” That means a check in the box on the Exco InTouch evaluation sheet that will help them to become a qualified vendor. That is a nice validation stamp for any company wanting to create awareness for their product.
Based on conversations with several sources in the industry, Exco InTouch also has a good ePRO system. And, any partnership it has with a known brand, be it Oracle, Medidata, or SAS, firmly establishes the company as a contender in the data collection space. This will result in Exco InTouch getting the attention of larger sponsor companies, which in turn will expand its opportunities for more sales and partnerships.
A few representatives I spoke to from Exco InTouch and the clinical community had only positive things to say about the partnership. The words “robust,” “highly integrated,” and “best-in-breed” were thrown out quite often. But not everyone in the industry believes the agreement is necessarily a win for Oracle. Two individuals I spoke to, who had no ties to either company, did not seem to think Oracle has as much to gain from the integration. Speaking to me off the record, they noted some of the larger EDC systems on the market, including InForm, are often described as cumbersome, clunky, unproductive, and, most importantly, expensive. Adding additional features to the product will not necessarily make it a more attractive offering to companies that felt it was too large and expensive for their needs.
Large EDC systems are expensive, and sponsors know that. For companies that already thought InForm was too large and expensive, this integration is unlikely to change that opinion. As one source remarked to me, "If someone wants a vehicle to get to the supermarket, a Mercedes might be more car than they need. A Mercedes with air conditioning added in makes for a nicer ride, but is still too much car. If you didn’t need it before, you likely won’t need it with the additional features."
Customers Wanted The Functionality
While some may downplay the announcement, Oracle believes the partnership will add value for current users. There are several hundred companies using InForm, and Jim Streeter, global VP for Life Sciences product strategy at Oracle, says many of them have been asking for the capability to integrate it with ePRO solutions. But he also notes Oracle went the extra step of making this a two-way integration.
“This is not simply Exco InTouch sending data back to InForm,” he says. “Patients are registered in both ePRO and InForm, so we can verify that patient information is the same in both systems. That is something that does not always happen in a lot of studies that are using a simpler ePRO integration. For companies using Exco InTouch as well as InForm, it is a very simple and easy setup and will help to mitigate many discrepancies that result from registering sites and patients.”
Streeter also addressed the aforementioned “clunkiness” of the system, a term that he acknowledges he does hear from time to time. He notes the term generally comes up when customers are using an older version of the system that has not been upgraded in many years. There are some companies that may have a seven-year-old version of the system but for various reasons have avoided doing available upgrades. While the lack of upgrades will not affect the performance of the system, it does mean users will not have access to new features, options, and easier-to-use interfaces.
“Oracle has invested a lot into the system, and the newer versions of InForm that have come out over the last two years have a new user interface for sites and added functionality,” notes Streeter. “All of this was done to address the needs of our clients and make InForm a more robust EDC system. It can also be adapted to be used in all phases of a clinical study.”
While using InForm can be compared to driving a Mercedes to the market, Streeter also points out that users do not have to use all of the options available in the system. Much has been done to increase the functionality of the system while keeping it price competitive in the market, even to small- and medium-sized businesses.
“When compared to other systems on the market, we are often priced the same or less,” he says. “We have made strides to keep it price competitive so as to keep it an option for those small- and medium-sized companies that want the functionality InForm provides but are working with tighter budgets. It’s in the cloud, easy to set up, and easy to get trained on.”
The hope is certainly that the partnership will payoff for both firms, and if the ePRO functionality is something that customers have been requesting, I have no doubts that it will. It will be a nice added feature for companies already using the system, and an additional selling point for companies considering its adoption. Oracle’s strategy is in providing mission-critical applications for key industries, so adding additional benefits to InForm will fit in nicely with that strategy.