Article | March 23, 2021

Decentralized Clinical Trials: Adapting And Transitioning

By Jessica Schell, IBM Watson Health

telehealth virtual clinical trial iStock-1220238855

Even before COVID-19 became part of the global lexicon, pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies and contract research organizations (CROs) were exploring the opportunities offered by decentralized clinical trials (i.e. umbrella, hybrid, virtual).

The worldwide pandemic accelerated the adoption of decentralized trials for many organizations, exposing them to the multitude of benefits offered by trials conducted — for the most part, if not completely — virtually, including an enhanced patient & site experience, cost savings, higher-quality data, and faster execution of administrative activities.

Still, this new trial dynamic combines traditional clinical trial difficulties with the challenges of transitioning to hybrid, decentralized trials. A blend of personnel expertise, innovative technology, and data integration capability is critical to overcoming these obstacles. First and foremost, pharma/biotech companies and CROs must understand the problems they may face executing a decentralized trial. Then, they must also evaluate and embrace solutions that ease or streamline their paths to successful trial outcomes — solutions that are intuitive enough to be implemented quickly, but versatile enough to conquer new challenges without placing undue burden on sites and patients.

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