Lecture: Leveling the Playing Field in Digital Clinical Trials
By Edward Ramos, PhD
Clinical trials are the workhorse of testing new treatments with regards to evaluating the effect they have on health outcomes. Traditional clinical trials and clinical research studies are often centralized around a specific physical location such as a clinic or hospital and rely heavily on a “high-touch,” in-person approach with study staff and coordinators. The downstream effects can have a negative impact on recruitment from populations not affiliated with the site despite potentially benefiting the most from the proposed research. Decentralizing the model and designing for the participant to meet them where they are provides a new paradigm. The advent and continued advance of digital health technologies has added considerable flexibility in the types of research questions that can be asked and answered. Importantly, the shift in study design has also brought significant opportunities to address the pressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in clinical trials and clinical research. The era of digital medicine and the explosion of decentralized studies as a result of the pandemic is a reminder that there is always room for innovation, however, we must simultaneously harness this innovation to address the healthy divide experienced by so many of our communities.