Automated recruitment platform accelerates patients into clinical studies significantly faster than traditional manual methods
uMed says its automated recruitment platform drastically saves time for patients and clinicians including GPs and nurses recruiting for clinical studies
LONDON – An automated patient recruitment platform (ARP) could help researchers recruit patients significantly faster into clinical studies across diverse disease areas, helping researchers identify new treatments for diseases more quickly, tech platform creator uMed says.
The UK company reports that its cloud-based patient engagement technology is able to accelerate recruitment of patients to clinical studies from months to days compared to traditional recruitment approaches, saving time for patients and clinicians.
Research suggests that as many as 86% of clinical studies fail to meet enrolment timelines1; uMed says its technology opens up the possibility of faster participation and retention of patients. The traditional ‘manual’ approaches rely on the patient’s local health record and so needs a staff member to check manually each patient record. uMed says ARPs cut out this time.
In a recent application of uMed’s technology for Closed Loop Medicine (CLM), a healthcare company developing drug and digital combination products, uMed’s ARP technology enabled it to find and refer 44 patients in just three days with a referral target of 200 patients. This volume of patients in one month could take a study up to six months to recruit using traditional approaches.
Traditional methods would usually include manual invitations from GPs, practice nurses or other staff. A 2018 paper looking at patient recruitment in a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) study found that, although GPs were reimbursed for taking part, some GP practices declined participation because of busy workloads, or did not respond, resulting in almost two thirds of patients excluded from being screened for this study.2
Dr Matt Wilson, uMed’s founder and CEO, said: “Many clinical trials fail before they have even begun. Since March 2020, around 1,000 organisations supporting clinical trials have delayed the initiation of planned trials or withdrawn them completely, suspended enrolment in ongoing trials, or terminated these trials.
“Slow enrolment is largely to blame, with researchers struggling to recruit patients as volunteers. Without the volunteers to take part in clinical trials, there could be almost no research, which means it would be impossible to know which treatments are safe, let alone effective.
“A key hurdle when recruiting patients for primary care studies is the traditional ‘manual recruitment’ method still employed by many health providers in primary care. This usually involves a member of the practice staff approaching a patient based either on their ‘local’ clinical records or using the patient’s EHR data which identifies them as relevant for a particular study. In either method, the primary care team would use a standard invitation script, effectively a ‘one size fits all’ approach when engaging with the patient. This may be a disincentive for patients who do not engage so well with ‘template’ research approaches.
“Our platform seamlessly links health record data to patient engagement tools. So we can help researchers, GPs and other clinicians study across a large number of sites, and create the capacity for them to participate in many more of these studies than would otherwise be possible. The end result is that patients are highly motivated and we find very few screen failures on recruitment.”
Speedy recruitment is often critical to the success of clinical studies, making it easier for patients and primary care healthcare professionals such as GPs and family physicians to engage in clinical studies while minimising the time taken away from providing frontline care.
uMed says its platform can match cohorts of patients with clinical research opportunities while enabling the remote consent of these patients to participate on behalf of their recognised care provider. It is also able to connect with each patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) seamlessly and deliver automated, personalised SMS/text and digital communications throughout the clinical study.
This allows a patient’s EHR data to be securely screened enabling other remote conversations such as follow-on surveys/questionnaires sent to the patient to build up a rich data set of the health record in a data-secure way. This saves crucial time for patients, clinicians and administrative staff and enables all the participants to report directly into a secure clinical data point using pseudonymised data.
The company says its technology platform serves a global network of healthcare providers and automates the process of recruiting to studies enabling researchers to speed up the time taken to investigate a particular disease area.
The company says it is compliant across UK, European and US regions by capturing patient consent prior to any access by external research teams to health record data.
1 In a paper published in Science Direct.com, Contemporary Clinical Trials Volume 66, March 2018, Pages 74-79 2018, researchers noted that a 2015 analysis of registered trials revealed that 19% were closed or terminated early because they could not accrue enough participants. Researchers also found that as many as 86% of clinical trials do not reach recruitment targets within their specified time periods. Grant D Huang, Jonca Bull, Kelly Johnston McKee, Elizabeth Mahon, Beth Harper, Jamie N Roberts, CTTI Recruitment Project Team ‘Clinical trials recruitment planning: A proposed framework from the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative’
2 Quint, J.K., Moore, E., Lewis, A. et al. Recruitment of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) for research. npj Prim Care Resp Med 28, 21 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41533-018-0089-3
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Closed Loop Medicine is a company that helps clinicians personalise treatment through digital care. uMed supported the acceleration of recruitment into CLM’s study and was key to the study hitting (and going beyond) recruitment targets. Through its ability to send individualised text/SMS and online messaging, uMed’s ARP technology supported the acceleration of recruitment into the study. This enabled CLM to recruit the most relevant patients needed to move the study into its delivery phase.
Patients recruited through uMed using the ARP platform found the process easy to navigate, allowing them the time to read the Patient Information Leaflet, to look up the study and become more confident and familiar with the research without the need for further consultation with a research nurse. By enabling and providing patients with the platform to make an informed choice to take part in the study it empowered them to feel in control of how they engaged with the clinical research. In the future it is hoped that all patients will be given the same level of control and comfort in participating in clinical research, making a conscious choice to click the link and agree to take part; it is also possible that ARP-invited patients felt more empowered to participate in the study - however this is an area for further research.
Dr Hakim Yadi, OBE, CEO of Closed Loop Medicine, explained his company’s experience using uMed’s automated recruitment platform, “At Closed Loop Medicine we are developing novel drug and digital combination products prescribed on a single label. We are working at the forefront of the convergence of life sciences and health care technology, so it is important to us to be able to robustly and quickly validate our approach with patients.
“We used uMed’s technology to rapidly scale up and automate the recruitment of our clinical study, led by Queen Mary University London. Working in this way enabled us to scale and complete recruitment more effectively than traditional recruitment models - it was a simple integration for our team and the health professionals at Queen Mary University of London and one which we will seek to engage with again.”
uMed is a technology platform embedded across a global network of healthcare providers that automates the process of building prospective, protocolised patient registries. This enables sites to participate in dozens of programmes simultaneously without increasing overhead or burden on staff. For life science companies, uMed provides access to research-grade registry data, where patients within those datasets can be compliantly re-engaged to support the aims of commercial and R&D teams. For more information, visit https://www.umed.io/ In November 2020, the company raised £3.7 million in venture capital.
Dr Matt Wilson - biography
Dr Wilson is a physician by background, having received a distinction in his medical degree from Cardiff University. As a military sponsored undergraduate, he went on to complete his junior doctor years at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and it was then he developed an interest in clinical research supporting studies evaluating the use of thromboelastography in pancreatitis. Matt then spent three years working as a Royal Navy Medical Officer and earned his green beret to work as a doctor in the Royal Marines. This time included a range of operations and exercises across the Middle East, Somalia, Kenya, Albania and Norway.
Going back into the NHS, Matt then worked in emergency medicine before entering specialist training in anaesthetics. He founded uMed in 2018 recognising the opportunity to automate key parts of the clinical study process by using electronic health record data. Matt is also a fellow of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme. While uMed is based in central London, Matt lives with his wife and two sons in Poole, Dorset.