Article | July 6, 2020

How Thoughtful, Strategic Design Improves The Patient Experience In Clinical Trials

By Clinical Leader, Mary Varghese Presti, Frances DiMare Dailey – IBM Watson Health

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When you talk about making your clinical trials more “patient-centric,” what exactly does that mean? Often, the crux of that goal revolves around making a trial, in various ways, more convenient for the patient. Perhaps you’ve expanded the number of trial sites or enabled more ways for patients to participate remotely (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic). There are myriad examples, but for most, there’s an underlying commonality that fuels these initiatives — technology.

Unfortunately, the healthcare field, in general, has learned the hard way during the past few decades that simply applying some type of digital solution to a long-standing industry problem is no panacea. EHRs, for instance, were initially expected to immediately revolutionize the way we access, view, and share patient medical information. Yet, physician aversions to this new technology hampered the adoption rate for years. A New Yorker article titled “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers” noted that “A 2016 study found that physicians spent about two hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with a patient — whatever the brand of medical software. In the examination room, physicians devoted half of their patient time facing the screen to do electronic tasks.”

Mary Varghese Presti, VP, Life Sciences, Watson Health at IBM, says, “Technology in healthcare is meant to simplify things, but sometimes it creates more complications. Just look at some early EHRs; none of us would be okay using that kind of interface in our daily work.”

The pharma industry is probably the most risk-averse of the healthcare subsectors, especially when it comes to R&D.  This is understandable, given the outsized risk they bear in bringing medicines to market.  True, there have been significant improvements to how data is collected and managed at sites and from patients, but these are still lacking when compared to general consumer technology. If your technology isn’t as easy to use or understand as an app on your phone, that can be a barrier to success when you’re striving to be more patient-centric. That ease of use is just one of the outcomes of thoughtful, strategic design.

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