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Accelerating clinical trials
AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands—Even before the coronavirus pandemic was discovered in China in January 2020 and began circling the globe, health tech leader Royal Philips was working on its Clinical Trial Accelerator (CTA). The CTA is a multi-faceted accelerator on Philips HealthSuite that allows life-science and healthcare organizations to integrate, analyze and store clinical and patient-reported data from multiple sources, providing better and faster decision-making—all from patients’ homes. Philips announced the launch of the new technology on May 19.
By March, COVID-19 led to the shutdown of schools, churches, businesses and restaurants across the United States, and sheltering at home became a way of life. Many clinical trials in the United States were placed on hold while researchers and hospitals made COVID-19 patients a top priority.
Philips’ CTA enables long-distance clinical trials and management of the collection of medical data, while providing the security and compliance expected from healthcare providers. This makes it easier for patients to stay connected, and has a significant impact on compliance rates and overall success.
“The Clinical Trials Accelerator was in development prior to the emergence of COVID-19,” Eric Holman, head of marketing, Philips HealthSuite digital platform, tells DDN. “We saw a need to run more flexible and efficient clinical trials as they can take many years to complete, cost billions of dollars, and struggle to achieve the desired outcomes.”
“The ability to leverage technology to support more patient-centric trials has the potential to provide greater efficiency and better outcomes throughout the clinical development process,” he adds. “Potentially, a patient could share data from their home using a connected medical device or smartphone. Examples of data include vitals such as weight, glucose levels and oxygen levels, to name a few. Questionnaires can be filled out at home, while reminders to take medications can play a significant role in allowing for better adherence.”
“The more flexible trials can become, the greater the likelihood that patients stay in the trials through completion,” Holman says. “CTA is a new service, but the capabilities provided have been around for a number of years and support many use cases, including telehealth, medical device data sharing, clinical informatics and a variety of therapeutic areas.”
“In the face of COVID-19, many healthcare providers turned to remote patient monitoring and virtual visits to continue caring for vulnerable patients while minimizing risk of virus transmission and reducing the strain on scarce hospital resources,” commented Royal Philips CEO Frans van Houten. “It has given a new and urgent impetus to implement digital health solutions at scale, with telehealth projected to grow by 64 percent, in the U.S. this year alone.
“Sooner or later, the threat from COVID-19 will go away, but the need to rethink where and how we deliver healthcare won’t. What the pandemic is bringing to the fore is how our homes are destined to play a central role in the healthcare system of the future.”
According to van Houten, consumer interest in remote and virtual health services is “seeing an uplift following COVID-19, accentuating the need for increased access and convenience of care,” but he argues that “this is not just about moving care delivery out of the hospital. It’s about acknowledging that our health is largely shaped by what takes place before and after doctor or hospital visits.”
Remote digital health technology can foster a more holistic, longitudinal and ultimately effective approach to taking care of health and health issues—an approach in which ongoing management of chronic conditions and preventative health strategies are as much a priority as providing care to the critically ill, he suggests.
In a letter posted on the Philips website on March 18, 2020, van Houten shared how Philips was responding to the pandemic.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the outbreak as a pandemic, but continues to reiterate that it is still controllable,” van Houten wrote. “While I am very concerned about the situation, provided the world mobilizes and collaborates appropriately, we share the view of the WHO.
“We are ramping up our production in China since the restart in February 2020, where we are now above 80 percent capacity utilization. To meet the increased demand for our professional healthcare products and solutions, across the globe we are in the process of increasing their production and rollout. In particular, this relates to certain diagnostic imaging systems, patient monitors and ventilators. We are working closely with our suppliers to secure materials supply to feed both our own manufacturing sites and our finished goods suppliers.”
He added that the Philips Foundation is “helping to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and founded on the belief that through innovation and collaboration, we can solve some of the world’s toughest challenges and make an impact where it really matters.”
In January, the Foundation donated a range of diagnostic imaging, patient monitoring and respiratory therapy equipment and supplies to the Thunder God Mountain Hospital in Wuhan, China. Per van Houten, the Philips Foundation is currently “working closely with Philips’ teams in Kenya, South Sudan and Italy to support their national healthcare systems, all of which have been deeply impacted.”