Editor's Message: Remote Control

By: Mike Auerbach  –  Editor In Chief  – [email protected]

If you grew up in the 70’s like I did, and, if you had a mother like I did – someone who was pretty fastidious regarding her children’s health – you probably remember going to the dentist.

Going to the dentist is usually not a fun experience – but it’s necessary. My worst memories of going to the dentist in the 70’s is getting fluoride treatments. Getting a fluoride treatment involved the use of this icky, syrupy substance put into upper and lower teeth trays. Then you had to sit there with this stuff dripping in your mouth for 15 minutes. To pass the time (literally) the dental hygienist would put a wind-up timer in front of you so you could watch the minutes slowly tick off – as you sat there in agony.

My dentist even offered a variety of flavors for the fluoride treatment, usually fruit flavors, but they were all terrible. 

Flash-forward to today, and due to COVID-19 I have to admit I was fairly hesitant about going to my dentist. They are a fairly tech-savvy practice, and I would get text messages that I was due for an appointment, or that an appointment had just opened up – and did I want to come in, etc. I finally went a few weeks ago, and it was fine, everyone was masked and all proper protocols were followed.

While in-person dentist visits will probably be the norm for the foreseeable future, in-person clinical trials are heading in a decidedly different direction and we can attribute the pandemic for this forthcoming change.

Remote patient monitoring or RPM, has been around for a while and its benefits are obvious: less travel for patients in clinical trials, less time needed, lower costs, greater compliance, and less patient attrition. But the pharma industry is slow to adapt to new technologies, unless there is a really compelling reason to so do so – like – a pandemic, which threatens to shut down in-person clinical trial research. The life-blood of any pharma company.

RPM seems to be the wave of the future, and I’m not supporting this statement from purely anecdotal evidence. There’s actual data to back this up. 

A recent survey done by a provider of connected healthcare solutions reveals that 44% of survey respondents have already adopted RPM or plan to within the next 12 months. Other findings from this survey include:

  • Maintaining the integrity of data collected during a trial is a top priority, with 94 percent of respondents answering that continuous data capture, defined as 24-hours or more, was somewhat or very important to their trials.
  • While most physiological parameters are of importance to monitor across the board, heart rate and blood pressure were cited as the most important to track for trials, with 69 and 57 percent citing those, respectively.
  • Patient adherence continues to be a concern to the adoption of RPM, with 69 percent of respondents noting that as the biggest challenge.
  • Video conferencing between clinicians and subjects for communication purposes has increased in popularity, with 71 percent of respondents stating that they utilize this technology in trials.

It’s obvious that RPM will become more commonplace as time progresses, even with some of the hurdles mentioned above. But I believe time and technology will solve most, if not all, problems. 

So, while you will probably be able to conduct your clinical trials remotely in the near future, I’m sorry to say, your dentist will be more than happy to see you in person.

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