BMS Operationalizes Study Connectivity

November 30, 2018
Moe Alsumidaie

Applied Clinical Trials

In this interview, Carolyn Brehm, BMS Study Connect Business Lead, will discuss how BMS is helping to match patients with studies through Study Connect.

Much of the clinical trials industry is discussing the importance of easily connecting patients with studies that best match them. As the numbe rof studies continues to grow, there are simply not enough patients interested in clinical trial participation to efficiently fill trials. Additionally, studies are becoming more restrictive with their inclusion/exclusion criteria, making patients more likely to give up in their clinical trial search. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) is taking the initiative by executing the Study Connect Program. In this interview, Carolyn Brehm, BMS Study Connect Business Lead, will discuss how BMS is helping to match patients with studies through Study Connect.

Moe Alsumidaie: What does study connectivity mean?

Carolyn Brehm: It means connecting the clinical trial community; patients and caregivers with sites and investigators. It also means educating patients and caregivers about clinical research. The more prepared patients are, the more likely they’ll partake in studies, as they wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. The number of active studies is increasing, and not enough patients know the purpose of a clinical trial or how to find one that may be right for them. Today clinical trials are more particular, as every patient and study is unique, and it’s more challenging to match a patient to a study that may be right for them. Once we enroll a patient, to better evaluate the outcome of the study, we need them to stay in the trial. If a patient feels empowered and engaged, and if they are learning through their clinical trial journey, they are more likely to remain in the trial and are also more likely to become an advocate and contribute to clinical research connectivity.

MA: How is BMS addressing study connectivity?

CB: There are a few different areas on our Study Connect Program to engage and help patients before, during, and after their clinical trial. 

Condition Screener: The Condition Screener helps to match patients to a trial that is suited for them. Patients answer a set of questions and are then matched to a study that may or may not be a BMS trial. Patients can print out their screening questions, bring it to their care team, receive the right answers, and then retake the screener to get matched to other studies. We base Condition Screeners on both eligibility and input from the study team; however, even if they match to a trial, they still might not make it into that trial because of study-specific eligibility criteria.

Referral Program: The Referral Program is where we connect patients and sites directly with each other. If a site is participating in our patient referral program, the patient agrees to provide contact information by completing a form which is sent directly to the site. The patient also receives an email notification with the site’s contact information. The patient can call the site directly using a referral number. Sites get connected directly to patients who may qualify for their study.

Study Education: We have an online community where we help patients who are new to clinical research learn more about what it’s like to participate. Patients can ask questions and get help, and we are enabling patients who have completed their clinical trials to become advocates. We monitor the community 24/7 to make sure all conversations are compliant and are within our community guidelines.

Study Connect Account: Another area is the Study Connect Account. The Study Connect Account program allows patients and caregivers to follow their condition, trials, and sites participating in research related to their condition. They can create an account and will then receive email notifications based on their preferences. 

Clinical Trials Call Center: This center receives calls from patients, caregivers, and health professionals and has helped over 600 people. This call center supports phone calls from the US and Canada in three languages: English, Canadian French, and Spanish. However, for every BMS study listing on clinicaltrials.gov, there is an email address called clinical.trials@bms.com. So, if anybody globally clicks on that, and they ask a question, we triage their question through this call center, and if the questions are from outside the above regions and languages, the question is triaged to the BMS Medical Information team. The call center always asks the patient for their consent to a follow-up call to help keep patients engaged.

MA: What metrics are you collecting to measure Study Connect’s success?

CB: We are collecting data and have created sixteen reports and visual dashboards across several data sources. We can look at the website performance; we know how many people are starting the screener, where they may have stopped before finishing, and how many finished the screener and registered at a trial site. Another metric includes data from our digital campaigns (i.e., click-throughs to Study Connect from Google search ads). This metric allows us to understand which digital marketing campaigns are most effective. 

We also collect metrics to track how engaged users are within the website; we designed an algorithm that provides weights and scores to user actions across the site, which allows us to measure engagement (low, medium, and high). For example, if you complete a screener on the Study Connect site, that is high engagement. We are not always looking for that conversion rate from a visitor to a registered user, but we are also combining that with the engagement on our site. The purpose across all the reports is to review the metrics, determine when we need to act so we can continuously improve the experience of visitors to the Study Connect platform.

MA: What is the future for Study Connect? 

CB: There are two areas we are looking to create: a patient portal and advanced HCP features. With the patient portal, we are exploring how to keep patients engaged during their trial. Within this patient portal, we want to help patients understand what their visit schedule looks like, what to expect, what’s their progress within a trial, the size of the trial, how many patients are we looking to enroll, and how many countries the trial operates in. We also want to use the patient portal to return individual patient data to the study participants during and after the trial. We believe having access to their study data could improve patient retention because they may feel much more engaged in the process, and less like a number.

With advanced HCP features, we learned that HCPs desired more advanced clinical trial search capabilities and more medical search filters. HCPs want to save their searches and be able to search for trials on a more scientific/medical level compared to patient/caregiver features. We want HCPs to be able to refer their patients digitally, just like the patient referral program, by enabling HCPs to fill out a form and refer their patient through Study Connect to a BMS participating site.

 

Moe Alsumidaie, MBA, MSF is Chief Data Scientist at Annex Clinical, and Editorial Advisory Board member for and regular contributor to Applied Clinical Trials

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