Clinical trials are an important factor in the ongoing improvement of healthcare, helping experts better understand conditions and refine interventions. They’re also notoriously expensive — and only growing more so. Yet one silver lining is the increasing use of clinical technologies like RPM and ePRO, which offer an opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of medical research and enable higher-quality trials.
What is remote patient monitoring (RPM), and how is it different from telehealth? Get quick a primer here.
Background: What’s Driving the Cost of Medical Research?
The rising cost of medical research has been a challenge for years. According to PharmaVoice, clinical trials surged in price by 60% in the period from 2009 to 2014 alone. In 2016, researchers writing in the Journal of the Society for Clinical Trials noted that this rising cost had “significant implications for public health.”
The healthcare industry is complex, and so are the drivers of this surging cost of medical research. They include site compensation fees, regulatory compliance work (and the documentation that it requires), patient recruitment and engagement, monitoring costs, and startup costs related to training and setup, to name just a few.
Though these expenses are both “technological and operational in nature,” as Sandra R. Lottes notes in the PharmaVoice article, the methods that have been used in the past decade to control them has been mostly operational in nature. The earlier limitations of technology have forced researchers to employ other tactics to control costs, like maintaining site repositories to eliminate the number of facilities needing comprehensive regulatory compliance, for instance.
Today, however, technology has advanced to the point where it can now offer new and effective ways to control the cost of medical research. In particular, telehealth technologies like RPM, along with more mHealth-centered tech like ePRO, could be key tools in the ongoing fight to cut those costs and enable more, better-quality clinical trials.
What’s the difference between mHealth and telehealth? Find out here.
How Technology Like RPM and ePRO Can Reduce the Cost of Medical Research
So, how does today’s technology offer the chance to cut the cost of medical research while improving its overall quality? There’s potential in many areas — most notably:
- Offering a more streamlined method for closely monitoring trial subjects.
- Making the data gathered more accurate and patient-centric.
- Leveraging remote care infrastructure to monitor more patients, more effectively.
These are powerful benefits, and technology like RPM and ePRO are well positioned to deliver them — especially when used together.
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a technology that leverages devices to enable the close monitoring of patients at home, or away from the hospital setting.
- Electronic patient-reported outcomes (ePRO) is a technology that lets patients directly answer questions and report on their status through an electronic device like a phone or tablet.
Let’s zoom in for a closer look at how these technologies can specifically help benefit the efforts to control the cost of medical research.
Benefit #1: More abundant and accurate patient data.
We recently explored how RPM can help providers collect and make use of both objective and subjective patient data. Both are critical to SOAP, a documentation method often used by nurses and other clinicians. Short for “subjective, objective, assessment and plan,” SOAP is central to the proper evaluation of a patient’s condition, and to make the best-informed decisions for that patient.
By offering both hard, measurable data and the ability for interactive interaction and analysis, RPM not only delivers objective and subjective data, but also raises their overall quality by offering continuous or near-continuous monitoring. That data is then put to the best possible use with clinical reporting and review tools — a process of improving patient care that could readily transfer to clinical trials, too.
What are objective and subjective data, and how does RPM technology help providers improve the quality of both? Get a rundown here.
And with its power to collect subjective data through electronic questionnaires — collected by mobile app, SMS, phone or interactive voice response (IVR) survey, for instance — ePRO can provide an even richer selection of data when paired with RPM’s trustable, objective clinical data.
Benefit #2: More patient-centric research.
By engaging subjects in this way, the data produced is more patient friendly, and more patient-centric, too — that is, more focused on the experience of the patient. Giving patients the option to report pain in real time, for instance, is a powerful data point, particularly when paired with a close monitoring of their vital signs. These results can be more conclusive, raising the value of clinical trials in a way that can help offset their costs.
A patient-centric research model also “shifts responsibility of data collection to the patient, rather than the research site,” Lottes points out — another means to reduce the operating expenses of running a trial, while also gaining richer data. And it does this without adding inconvenience for the patients themselves, who enjoy less need to travel. This can lower their effort to participate and help boost engagement and recruitment, as well.
The greater availability of patient-reported outcomes also helps facilitate patient recruitment and engagement, both of which are often cited as a major cost of medical research. Having an active and engaged base of patients can streamline processes “to increase visibility and minimize cost” while alleviating “the need to activate and monitor sites, negotiate contracts, and pay stipends,” Lottes notes.
“It also improves the overall experience for the patient, thereby improving patient retention and compliance,” she adds.
Benefit #3: Reducing the technical costs of monitoring.
This patient-centric data is even more effective when combined with the superior, closer monitoring of patients. And with RPM, that level of monitoring is at once mor available and affordable.
In the past, patient monitoring was a major expense for clinical trials, accounting for as much as 30% of each trial’s overall costs, as Lottes points out. Today, though, RPM has significantly reduced the operational cost of monitoring with advanced technology that’s more widely available to providers than ever before.
Thanks to remote blood pressure monitors, oximeters and glucometers and other innovate, patient-friendly RPM devices, monitoring can now be carried out at home in a way that’s comfortable and unobtrusive. And a proven RPM platform that can integrate and process it all means this data is instantly actionable, offering an enormous benefit not just to clinical trials but patient care in general.
So effective is RPM in cost-effectively monitoring patients that RPM has become a core component of many hospitals and healthcare facilities. That means clinical trials can be set up in these facilities with little additional expense — a powerful tool for reducing one of the biggest pieces of the pie when it comes to the cost of medical research