The pandemic has clearly transformed the health sector and introduced conditions in which formerly niche digital solutions have become the only viable options for delivering patient care.
It’s against this backdrop that Stefanini attended SCOPE in Orlando, Florida, for the thirteenth edition of the annual event that fosters innovation and collaboration among the clinical research community globally.
Following four days of in-depth discussions in 25 conferences and plenary keynote sessions – which covered all aspects of clinical trial innovation, planning, management and operations – we caught up with Denis Reynders, Global Business Unit Director, Digital Health Services, Stefanini EMEA, to discuss his experience at SCOPE and the key trends shaping the industry.
New attitudes towards risk and innovation
The role of the pandemic in changing attitudes towards clinical trials was inevitably a key focus at this year’s SCOPE.
This included the reshaping of the risk-benefit ratio, where many innovative methodologies and technologies were viewed much more as benefits than risks. Within this new reality, the need for real-time data collection and consumption has continued, necessitating a new approach.
“There’s undoubtedly been a major shift in how we approach digital health, with approaches that were used in the minority of cases – such as telehealth solutions – now being used in the majority. Prior to this shift, digital health was held back by people being skeptical of the benefits, a lack of functional business models that would ensure market value was delivered, the lack of a trigger that would prompt businesses to embrace a digital revolution and a lack of credible players with the right experience willing to match new technologies with new requirements. What we’re now witnessing is the result of all of these points being addressed,” says Denis.
The fact that this shift has significantly enhanced collaboration within organizations and with external partners – as well as how momentum can be sustained and new innovations can support trials on an ongoing basis – was also discussed at SCOPE.
“Stefanini has always believed in the power of deep collaboration, as we co-create solutions with our partners. We strongly believe there will be real value for the digital health industry in identifying agile partners who can provide the exact combination of expertise required to ensure the delivery of successful trials in a disrupted landscape,” says Denis.
Protecting people and the planet
Alongside exciting innovation, the importance of operating responsibly – whether that’s looking after people or the planet – was another key focus at SCOPE.
This included a session on reducing the CO2 footprint of clinical trials, as well as how to build diversity into trial design.
“The digital health sector not only needs to respond to disruption and the huge increase in demand for digital solutions, but also needs to ensure it is operating in a responsible way on an ongoing basis. That’s quite a taxing set of competing demands and will include everything from assessing how to reduce emissions to ensuring a trial takes into account the perspectives of people from a range of cultural backgrounds and health literacy levels. As a result, the value of partners who can deliver tailored expertise to organizations in this sector cannot be understated,” explains Denis.
Addressing the digital divide
Related to increasing the diversity of trials, addressing the existing digital divide will prove important to digital health businesses.
This spans everything from boosting willingness to participate in trials among diverse audiences to ensuring the infrastructure exists to ensure trials are effective for the broadest span of the population.
“There is undoubtedly a huge opportunity for digital health businesses, but there are also major challenges, including earning a license to operate while adapting in the face of disruption. Responding to this challenge will mean offering entirely transparent communication about how data is being used – increasing likelihood of participation in trials among segments of the population who remain hesitant – as well as investment in infrastructure, such as broadband, to ensure trials are viable among diverse groups,” concludes Denis.