Precision Oncology: Targeting the Ongoing Clinical Staffing Challenges
Contributed Commentary by Marie Lamont, IQVIA and Inteliquet
February 17, 2023 | Recent staffing challenges spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic have played a sustained, negative role in clinical trial workflows. The Society of Clinical Research Sites has reported much higher turnover rates than in previous years, with site networks averaging a turnover rate of 35-61%. Due to worries about profitability, many institutions and hospitals have reduced or adjusted their workforce in certain areas, with some assigning back-office employees to patient-facing roles.
In addition, many laid-off healthcare employees chose not to return to the same field and pursued alternative careers. These issues resulted in major clinical trial workflow challenges that persist today, but precision technologies could help ease some staffing pain. Through precision technology, healthcare providers can decrease turnover rates and reduce the major ongoing clinical trial workflow challenges resulting from lower personnel.
Impact of High Turnover Rates on Clinical Trials
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted clinical trial workflows, yielding lasting effects such as a 20% drop in trial accrual rates, as stated in a panel held by the Society for Immunotherapy for Cancer. There is a significant reliance on physicians and staff to maintain the quality of a trial through key procedures—such as patient chart analysis—to grasp key insights that will influence care decisions.
For example, electronic medical records often do not have in-depth knowledge of key trial details—such as identifying pertinent patient biomarkers—and rely on staff to identify this type of information. The staff is critical to maintaining trial workflow efficiency and identifying key trial data. It is essential to provide them with solutions that help ease their workloads while maintaining trial efficiency, productivity, and accuracy.
Physicians and staff can automate traditionally manual processes through precision oncology solutions—such as artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled software—by increasing their availability for training, development, and eventually higher quality workloads.
Leveraging Advanced Technologies to Target Staffing Challenges
Patient Matching Efficiency
An automated, data-driven approach for matching patients to complex clinical trial protocols will result in an exponentially faster and more efficient process, especially as the staff faces limited budgets and resources to address the needs of their region’s patient population. In addition, healthcare organizations using tools driven by AI will be able to rapidly analyze structured and unstructured data and extract relevant information at any time. This access will ultimately reduce workloads and raise the confidence of physicians and their staff to collect, transform, and use patient data accurately.
Higher Patient Engagement
Patient-facing activities are cited as one of the most critical determinants of the timeliness and success of clinical trials. Unfortunately, this sector is the most impacted by the high rates of clinician turnover. The continuous fluctuation of staff members in patient-facing roles poses a risk to the overall efficiency and continuance of the trial. The ongoing delay in this sector is often the cause for trial termination.
Through the integration of AI-enabled solutions, clinicians can cut down the time spent on tedious manual tasks, eliminating feelings of clinician burnout, and enabling many more hours available for physicians and staff to spend greater time with face-to-face activities, including engaging with and caring for patients.
Increased Time for High-Level Activities
Automating clinical trial workflows benefits both the patient and staff, increasing the quality of the trial by enhancing the time spent on it. Tedious task burnout is eliminated, and the team is provided with hundreds of available hours to perform high-level, face-to-face tasks, such as spending additional time at the bench or writing post-trial case studies. It also allows the staff to engage in additional training and development opportunities, a major motivating factor among clinical research sites for improving employee retention rates.
Enhancing the Future of Precision Oncology
While some physicians may be hesitant about leveraging precision technology for clinical trial automation, this strategic move could help elevate staff burnout and fatigue. In addition, digitized tasks such as patient matching, remote data source verification, and automatic patient consent generation save time on on-site visit protocols and reduce overall administrative burden.
While precision technologies are not the sole solution to reducing staff burnout and turnover rates, they certainly help address the motivating factors behind the high employee and patient and provide solutions to the current feelings of burnout many industry professionals are experiencing.
Marie E. Lamont is the global head of real word evidence data strategy, access, and enablement at IQVIA and the general manager at Inteliquet, a patient-matching clinical trial software company. She is the former president of the patient services business at Dohmen Life Science Services (DLSS), which was sold and is now part of EVERSANA. Prior to DLSS, Marie was global head of business strategy and commercial operations for rare disease at Sanofi Genzyme. She had stewardship for the $2.9B business. She can be reached at email@example.com.