A digital CRO offers brands a unique approach to clinical research, offering a non-traditional decentralized trial model that can appeal to a wider range of brand needs. These organizations can enable consumer brands to create health claims easily, with simpler patient recruitment, lower overhead expenses, and potentially higher-quality data.
What is a digital CRO?
A digital CRO is a Contract Research Organization (also sometimes referred to as a Clinical Research Organization) that operates either mostly or entirely online. These organizations offer the same clinical trial services as a brick-and-mortar CRO, with assistance available at every stage from designing and recruiting for your study to managing the intervention and publishing study results.
Traditional CROs face significant challenges in areas such as patient recruitment and retention, as well as in the higher costs they present to consumer brands. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, digital CROs became increasingly popular as a method of reducing participant burden and lowering the cost of clinical research overall.
Ease of Patient Recruitment
The most salient changes between traditional and digital research models are the improvements in patient recruitment and engagement. A digital CRO simplifies the recruitment process from the start by enabling enrollment to take place at the patients’ convenience, without the need for office visits and in-person consent paperwork.
Further, the digital structure notably improves patient retention and engagement, because the burden to participants is lowered when travel to and from a research center is removed from the equation. This is of great benefit to patients who are less able to travel, such as those with limited mobility or strained financial situations. This also means that research can include participants from all over the country, bolstering the scientific validity of the data collected and enabling enrollment quotas to fill up much faster.
Finally, a digital CRO keeps patients engaged by bringing the research to them. The retention rates for virtual or hybrid studies are higher, as the participants are able to complete the tasks asked of them from the comfort of their own homes outwith scheduling issues such as their working hours or caring responsibilities.
Lower Overhead Expenses
It may seem obvious, but it is worth noting that a digitally based clinical trial offers brands access to research they otherwise may not have been able to afford. Without the overhead costs associated with maintaining an active research center, digital CROs are often able to offer their services at a lower price than traditional CROs. Additionally, as discussed above, these companies are able to optimize study design and speed up enrollment timelines. This means fewer researchers are required to manage each individual trial, as certain tasks can be automated online or done in less time (such as obtaining consent via. Digital sign-and-return documents, or automating patient follow-up emails.)
This reduction in staffing and shortened timelines saves the CRO from extraneous expenses, enabling them to offer their services to brands at a more manageable cost.
Improved Data Quality
One final consideration for digital CROs is the potential improvement in data quality that accompanies a virtual based-model, as these designs often involve wider participant catchment areas, as well as the option to relay data automatically through wearable devices.
A wider patient catchment area increases the number of participants a study can enroll, and improves the diversity of a study’s population. This is always a good thing -- the more representative a trial’s sample is, the more likely it is that the data will accurately reflect the needs of the wide range of people using a product.
Lastly, a digital model presents brands with a unique opportunity to employ mobile data monitoring. This may involve participants wearing devices such as step trackers or smart watches, which can relay data in real-time to the research team and reduce the need to rely on self-report data.
Why use a digital CRO?
Digital CROs are often able to offer improved recruitment and engagement, lower prices, and better data quality than traditional CROs. These services can provide new or small brands with the opportunity to partake in clinical research to create health claims for their products.
Want to create your own clinical trial?
Citruslabs provides a simple and affordable way to prove that your products actually work. At Citruslabs, we design a clinical trial that is right for you and your budget, so that you can start sharing research-backed product claims without spending a fortune. We offer the cohesive planning and management required to conduct successful clinical trials, from start to finish. Ready to get started? Let's talk! You can contact us here.