When Pfizer ($PFE) began its virtual trial in 2011, the technology it used was at the forefront of innovation in clinical research. Yet two years later, some of the ideas are already looking dated, with the rise of smartphones meaning Pfizer now foresees participants using their own devices, instead of dedicated tools.
Pfizer's virtual REMOTE trial used dedicated electronic patient reported outcome (ePRO) devices from Exco InTouch, an approach many companies take to ensure all users see the document in the same format. But with smartphone penetration now above 50% in the U.S.--and self-tracking devices like Fitbit growing in popularity--Pfizer thinks the "bring your own device" trend is coming to clinical trials. The shift will help improve oversight of study participants' health between site visits by offering new ways to gather data.
"[Patients] are engaged and committed… sharing info in their social network, and we need to think about how to take advantage of this. The patient can be in a very unique role of being an aggregator of diverse clinical data," Pfizer's global head of clinical innovation and informatics Barbara Tardiff said at the Partnerships in Clinical Trials Europe conference attended by Outsourcing-Pharma. If the active role some people take to health tracking spills over into trials, participants will become more involved in studies.
This is one step toward the merging of patient care and clinical trials, a scenario in which every patient interaction with the healthcare system is viewed as an opportunity to further research. Technology will be a key enabler of this shift, and it is smartphones, rather than dedicated devices, that are tipped to drive the trend. As Pfizer's head of clinical innovation Craig Lipset told FierceBiotech in March, dedicated devices are "a legacy approach for legacy issues, rather than a model that makes sense going forward."
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