By Walker Bradham and Mary Varghese Presti
These days, every aspect of the drug development process is being scrutinized by pharma companies seeking to streamline their operations. Clinical trials, in particular, were a common target in 2020 as firms scrambled to find alternatives to their traditional models amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
As anyone involved with clinical trial operations or data management can tell you, medical coding is an often-overlooked element of the process that is ripe for improvement. To understand the importance of this function, consider the example of a COVID-19 vaccine trial being paused due to patients with unexplained illnesses. “The researchers are looking for expected or unexpected reactions to a given treatment to make decisions such as halting or adjusting a trial,” explains Walker Bradham, an Offering Manager at IBM Watson Health who works extensively on IBM Clinical Development, the company’s CDMS (clinical data management system). “The documentation regarding any adverse events or medical history that can cause those types of trial revisions originates with the efforts of a medical coder.”