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The Benefits of Using Digital Tools in Clinical Research

Discover the importance of specific digital tools in clinical research.
In this course, we have presented the studies that evaluated the following digital tools; websites, social media, search engines, automated screening and emails and text. The evidence unsurprisingly varied in how effective these tools were in improving recruitment and retention of participants in clinical trials. The most promising evidence from our literature reviews was seen in the use of social media to increase recruitment, the use of automated screening methods to identify participants faster and more accurately, also email or SMS messages to increase follow up and retention activities.
The evidence from our study shows that in contrast with traditional recruitment and retention methods overall, such online digital approaches have a number of advantages, such as; they can reduce costs, increase the speed of recruitment, increase the identification of suitable trial participants, increase the number of participants who remain in a trial, or reduce the number of dropouts, or participants lost to follow up. They also finally helped reduce the time for participants to respond to trial activities. Overall, this course has shown that there is a role for digital tools within clinical trials.
The COVID pandemic has obviously also demonstrated that this technology can support clinical trials well through benefits, such as avoiding face to face contact, enabling easier access to clinical trial information, creating more awareness of clinical trials in general and empowering the general public to take part in clinical trials. The use of digital technology has become largely accepted by trialist, and for some it is now the only way to gain the number of research participants needed for a trial.
There were also some digital tools that have not been evaluated or published to date, such as digital means to collect research data or questionnaires, or electronic patient reported outcomes, sometimes known as the ePRO, electronic consent which is very new considering the pandemic and the remote monitoring, all of which again have the potential to improve trial efficiency. We all still need to work systematically, collaboratively and critically to continue to build on the evidence base of which digital tools work best for certain populations, trial designs or settings. Careful consideration is also needed when working with diverse population groups. It is also important to understand and differentiate which tools work best for participants, trial sites or the wider research community.
There is also a need to look at whether digital recruitment and retention tools can work in harmony together and how best to utilize these tools for maximum benefit.

In this video, Athene Lane discusses the advantages of using digital tools for research.

She summarises our findings, emphasizes their importance in the context of the COVID pandemic, and points out some areas which need further research and investigation.

One of the issues she raises is the need to find ways to ensure digital tools work in harmony with each other to maximise the benefits of using them, e.g. tools for recruitment and tools for retention. How might this be realised?
What do you think can be done to make digital technologies more useful for the recruitment and retention of clinical trial participants and increase uptake by patients and professionals?


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Digital Tools for Efficient Clinical Trials

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