How Voice Recognition Technologies Can Be Used to Accelerate Patient Trials

September 27, 2017
Ken Fabianovicz

Applied Clinical Trials

Because of the growing rate of voice assistant applications, such as Alexa, healthcare and life sciences organizations are beginning to design a range of scenarios for deploying these voice assistant platforms in the clinical trial setting.

In the last several years, the rise in digital technologies and voice recognition have enabled an artificial intelligence revolution, impacting organizations across all industries. Platforms like Google Now and Siri, along with others from IBM and Microsoft, have succeeded by simplifying the user experience of accessing information. Most recently, the Amazon Echo/Alexa platform has become the leader in the smart home market, making inroads into a variety of healthcare settings. For example, Lenovo is using Alexa to link patients to its care teams, while HealthTap has launched “Doctor A.I.,” an Alexa skill, which allows patients to query a wide range of conditions and ailments. Boston Children’s Hospital has even deployed a skill that allows anxious parents to ask Alexa about child-related medical symptoms.

Given this growing range of health-related, voice assistant applications, healthcare and life sciences organizations are increasingly starting to design a range of scenarios for deploying voice assistant platforms, such as Alexa, in the clinical trial setting. These four scenario-based user-experiences each demonstrate how Alexa’s powerful voice recognition technology, when paired with a connected ecosystem, might be harnessed for addressing specific challenges in the current clinical trial environment. In this context, four separate use-cases have been developed:

1). Keeping Patient Appointments
Typically in the clinical trials process, keeping patients enrolled in a trial through completion is difficult. A common reason for early withdraw is subjects are overwhelmed by the number of visits, which prompts them to forget or skip appointments. This results in inadequate data. Rather than having the patient call the site to reschedule appointments or receive reminders, Alexa can be used to help keep patients on schedule. For example:

·       A patient asks Alexa the time of his or her next scheduled visit

·       Alexa accesses database and returns result

·       The patient can confirm the appointment, set Alexa reminder(s) or reschedule

·       If prompted to reschedule, Alexa will access the database for rescheduling or notify the clinical trials site to call the patient to reschedule

Utilizing voice recognition technology during the patient appointments phase of the clinical trials process allows organizations to enhance the user experience. Specifically, providing a simple, central point of contact for scheduling and making appointments results in minimal disruption. This benefits the overall trials process by improving adherence to schedule visits and assessments, as well as providing better quality patient data.

2). Recording Patient Diaries
About 25 percent of clinical studies require patients to maintain a study diary, and in most cases, these are paper-based entries. In recent years, electronic diaries have become more common via a patient portal or telephone Interactive Voice Response (IVR). These methods have resulted in improved data quality and integrity; however, there is room to improve patient adherence in submitting the information. With this in mind, Alexa can be used in place of IVR to gather this data. For example:

·       A patient tells Alexa they are ready to complete the diary

·       Alexa accesses the database and asks questions related to completing the diary

·       The patient is prompted to reply

·       Alexa notifies the patient when his/her entry is complete

In this case, voice recognition technology can improve the overall clinical trials process by providing minimal disruption to the patient’s schedule, and allowing them to input/record their diaries using a single communication method. As a result, this improves adherence to data collection, resulting in better quality data overall.

3). Collaboration between Site Investigators and Sponsors
Site management by the sponsor and/or the Contract Research Organization (CRO) is an essential element in ensuring trial success. The appropriate level of site management and oversight empowers sites to effectively recruit, treat, and retain subjects while ensuring regulatory compliance, protocol adherence, and overall management of subjects. As such, it can be difficult to maintain regular communication with the sponsor and/or CRO. Improving the communication flow will often reduce protocol violations and deviations and address data issues and questions, thereby increasing the quality and integrity of clinical trial data. For example:

·       The site asks a question to the sponsor or the Clinical Research Associate (CRA)

·       Alexa requests the CRA or sponsor call back, or Alexa accesses the database for the site’s FAQs and can provide an immediate response for any common questions

By looking to new, digital technologies such as Alexa, clinical site investigators and sponsors can experience minimal disruption to the investigator schedule by improving the overall communication flow through a simple, central point of contact.

4). Increasing Trial Awareness Among PhysiciansThe Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) found that 46 percent of clinical trial participants discovered clinical trials from the internet, while only 23 percent were referred by their physicians. In fact, patients are more likely to enroll in a trial when their physician recommends it;  however, physicians are typically overwhelmed by their daily workflow, and often have limited time to research and refer patients to trials. In this case, Alexa can be used to increase overall physician awareness of open trials. For example:

·       A physician queries Alexa on open trials for a condition or diagnosis code

·       Alexa accesses Clinical Trial databases (Clinical Trials and Me or ClinicalTrials.gov)

·       An additional data layer associates a text shortcode to each open trial

·       The physician or patient then sends the shortcode to a predefined number (i.e. 4325 to AbbvieTrials)

·       A link to the site with trial information is then returned

On the other hand from the patient perspective, voice recognition technologies enhance the user experience by providing an easy way to search the clinical trial database. The end result is increased awareness and patient engagement in discovering clinical trials, acerbating recruitment for the site overall.

Conclusion
As Alexa and other voice recognition tools gain wider adoption in the industry, organizations will start to see an increasing use of voice-driven tools within the healthcare space. The potential impact on the clinical trial process is very powerful across a range of different use cases. To drive success, organizations should identify areas that hold the most potential for process improvement, begin piloting/testing voice driven solutions as part of the technology ecosystem, to ultimately improve efficiencies and accelerate clinical trials overall.

 

Ken Fabianovicz, Director of Commercial Strategy & Innovation at Cadient, a Cognizant Company