According to a report by IQVIA, there are now over 318,000 health apps available to download on app stores across the globe. Not only this, but the overall evidence of app efficiency also seems to be on the rise, with proven reductions in care utilization thought to potentially save the U.S. healthcare system around $7 billion per annum. It seems that people are relying on technology, now more than ever, to track and improve their health. With the pandemic now forcing trials to come to a halt, we take a look at what a rise in health app usage could mean for research struggling to recruit in these uncertain times.
The current problem
The latest results from Continuum Clinical’s ongoing survey on the impact of COVID-19 on clinical trial enrollment and retention are disappointing. Right now, one-third of clinical trial sites fear total closure, with 77% of these sites indicating some of their ongoing trials are feeling the impact of the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders and patient concerns over interacting with healthcare professionals top the reasons for patient dropout, with 80% of sites reporting an unwillingness by patients to visit their research site. What is particularly worrying about these statistics is, to top it all off, only 19% of sites believe patients would permit home visits by clinical trial staff.
It’s clear that we are now living in a world desperate for medical solutions; yet, our health experts simply do not have the means to provide these answers. While this standstill in research was inevitable given the current circumstances, this defeat of patient confidence has the potential to desolate all the work of CROs over the last few years. That is why we need to seriously consider that this issue could stay with us long after the first wave of the disease has passed. What we need is a new approach that doesn’t rely on traditional methodologies, and we need it now.
The new alternative
If we can’t depend on face-to-face interaction then we must look to the virtual world for solutions. Remote patient monitoring and telehealth technologies have gained some momentum over the last few weeks. In recent days, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to enforce a $200 million telehealth program to support healthcare providers responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, a study by Spyglass Consulting has shown that 88% of hospitals and health systems, taking part in the US survey, have invested in or plan to invest in remote patient monitoring technologies.
So, where exactly do health apps fit into all of this? Research carried out by Accenture suggests that healthcare consumers are linked to a strong use of digital technology, with numbers on the increase every year. With technology now being seriously considered by government bodies as a means of treating current patients, there is now promising evidence - and the right backing - for technology to recruit and treat future patients. This is where health apps, like our own Mindmate app, come in.
Problems with patient recruitment that sees 86% of trials fail to meet their recruitment targets have predominantly been down to two reasons: one, a lack of awareness by the general public, and, two, stigmatization of clinical research. If clinical researchers can utilize the popularity of the health app, they can directly combat these two problem areas. The future of clinical trials now rests on the industry adapting to the challenges we are currently facing, and to do that, we’ll have to carefully listen to public health concerns and be there to provide some answers. By building a relatable platform that connects with popular public opinion, researchers will be able to re-establish the trust that has now been lost.
Here at Citruslabs, we learn from our own experience. Our Mindmate app has over a thousand 5-star reviews on the App Store and helps provide data from over 3 million users. Our app educates patients on research and advocates for clinical trials - making our “no longer interested” and “can’t be contacted” rates extremely low. As a result, our patients are motivated and actively interested in enrolling in your clinical trial.