Rise of the Activated Patient During COVID—Biopharma on Notice

Applied Clinical TrialsApplied Clinical Trials-05-01-2021
Volume 30
Issue 5

Sparked by the pandemic, patients are now leveraging remote technology to take control of their healthcare.

COVID-19 has pushed patients across the healthcare spectrum–and especially those facing a diagnosis and treatment of cancer–to the brink, more than ever before. Today, cancer patients continue to push for their necessary screenings, advocate for surgeries and, for many of them, independently drive their own care while risking their health in an already overwhelmed medical system. Moreover, patients have lost their jobs and health insurance, compounding the immense stress and anxiety of everyday life.

Simultaneously, COVID has negatively impacted clinical trials, which can be more effective at treating cancer patients with advanced therapies compared to the standard of care. Many trials have experienced delays or even complete halts, with patients finding themselves unable to receive potentially groundbreaking treatments

Patients knew that cancer wouldn’t stop because of COVID, and they decided that enough was enough.

This created empowered, activated patients who began leveraging the tools available to them, including technologies like AI, to become fully engaged participants in their care alongside doctors. They’re taking back control of their health journey and learning how to make better informed treatment decisions.

So, why does this matter to the biopharmaceutical industry? Because the pandemic has exposed, and exacerbated, many long-standing issues that patients have dealt with for years that directly impact biopharma. Navigating very complex database networks to find the right treatment options and trials, for example, can be frustrating and confusing for patients given all of the medical jargon and eligibility criteria. Emerging from the year of COVID, these patients expect transparency and for their voice to be heard in an effort to change the industry for the better.

Biopharma companies can help revolutionize healthcare as we know it by first listening to the patient and taking their unique wants and needs into account. Do patients have the necessary resources that they need to manage their condition, using their doctors as partners? How can we leverage emerging technologies to assist in these efforts, provide patients with personalized treatment options and ultimately accelerate the biopharma industry’s forward progress?

Beyond COVID, technology will play a vital role in the evolution of cancer treatment and clinical trials. Thanks to AI, biopharma companies can now learn, for the first time ever, why cancer patients are deterred from participating in clinical trials. Is it the time and inconvenience required to travel to the site location? What are the patient barriers that biopharma can finally work to overcome to achieve more effective clinical trial recruitment, optimize clinical trial designs and avoid flawed data now that we are actually listening to the patient?

By bringing back the missing link–the patient–the industry will not only foster a stronger sense of trust between patients and biopharmaceutical companies, but it will also help to accelerate a drug’s time to hit the market for patients in need. It will create diversity in trials and make sure that everyone–regardless of socioeconomic status or location–has the opportunity to receive the best care possible. Instead of starting with sponsors, hospitals and investigators, let’s start with the patients themselves to truly make a difference.

This paradigm shift–from the biopharma industry leading the charge to making patients part of the process–is not merely a pandemic-era trend. The entire biopharma industry needs to partner with patients and leverage technology to drive real, meaningful change in how we treat cancer moving forward.

Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP, Medical Oncologist, former Deputy Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, American Cancer Society, current advisor for TrialJectory

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