CROs are Leading the Charge in New Clinical Trial Technology

The findings from the Veeva 2019 Unified Clinical Operations Survey: Annual CRO Report confirmed that contract research organizations (CROs) are continuing to lead the industry in improving clinical trial performance. CROs are increasingly adopting purpose-built technologies to eliminate manual processes, modernize key areas of clinical trials, bolster collaboration and, ultimately, improve the quality and speed of trials.

But what else does the survey reveal about how clinical trials are evolving and the role that CROs are playing in driving the industry forward? Here, I answer some of the most common questions I’ve received about this year’s report.

What were some of the key findings from this year’s report and are these in line with what you’re hearing from the industry?

Contract research organizations are continuing to advance and lead the industrywide move to adopt purpose-built clinical applications to drive greater efficiencies, collaboration, and clinical trial performance. This move and the need for improvement is consistent with what we hear from sponsors.

2018 saw a record number of drug approvals, yet we are not seeing an improvement in the time it takes to run clinical trials. This highlights the need to make clinical research more efficient and explains why all CRO respondents want to unify clinical applications and processes because they see this as key to improving trial performance.

We are seeing an uplift in the adoption of modern, purpose-built solutions in major clinical areas, like eTMF, which will help eliminate manual processes while driving quality and compliance. While we see improvements in some areas, we are also hearing that the time it takes to get a study up and running is no faster than it was a decade ago.

Improving information exchange with study partners is key for CROs. Clinical trials generate a significant volume of information that can be fragmented across multiple systems, processes, and study partners. Traditional methods of information exchange – such as email and fax – are time-intensive, require manual input, and hinder collaboration. CROs are motivated to improve information sharing to reduce these manual processes and increase visibility.

How do this year’s findings compare to previous reports?

The need to improve information exchange came through strongly this year. The main challenge is the reliance on a variety of methods of sharing information with study partners, many of which are manual.

Study start-up is a highly collaborative process, with many steps and a large volume of information that must be exchanged. Site contracting and budgeting was cited as an issue more this year than in previous years and there is a clear need to eliminate manual processes – like spreadsheets – to drive faster start-up.

It will be interesting to see how the study start-up phase improves in the future, knowing that we haven’t seen any real movement in the past 10 years. With CROs focused on running quality trials for their sponsor partners – and being heavy investors in technology to deliver on this – I would expect to see them lead the industry forward in this major clinical area.

From what you are seeing in the report and in the wider life sciences industry, what changes, if any, do you expect to see in the short to mid-term?

We’re hearing from CROs and their partners that they want to run more effective and efficient clinical trials. For that to be possible, we should expect to see a continued move away from manual processes and methods in favor of purpose-built solutions which help streamline collaboration, improve quality and visibility, and speed clinical trials.

I expect we will see a rise in CRO adoption of purpose-built solutions in the major clinical areas of study start-up and CTMS, in the way we have seen eTMF growing in recent times. This will become a necessity to reduce time and effort on manual processes and to ensure CROs can deliver a competitive edge, in terms of efficiency and speed, to study partners.

To learn more, read the Veeva 2019 Unified Clinical Operations Survey: Annual CRO Report.