During the height of the pandemic, access to many essential services became limited. In healthcare, both providers and patients learned the value of virtual, decentralized care. Physical clinical trial sites also became inaccessible, challenging the ability to conduct trials safely and efficiently.
When the FDA issued guidance for investigators to consider alternatives for data collection, sample collection, and site visits, the need for disruption became more evident than ever. But it also highlighted an existing problem within the medical industry: care deserts.
The Care Desert Problem
Care deserts are not a clinical trial-specific problem. Before COVID, patients of all ages and demographics have faced obstacles when it comes to finding care.
In the US, living in a healthcare desert implies that the nearest care facility is at least 60 minutes away. This health disparity is seen more commonly in the country’s rural communities, though care deserts also exist in suburban and urban centers. In Texas, for example, 159 of the state’s 254 counties have no general surgeons, 121 have no medical specialists, and 35 have no doctors at all.
Lack of access to critical care can be life-threatening or lead to long-term health problems, especially to those most at risk. This includes the uninsured, those living below the poverty line, the elderly, as well as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.For those living in urban care deserts, data from 2019 shows that lack of access to trauma care disproportionately impacts Black Americans.
The Impact of Healthcare Deficits on Clinical Trials
So, what impact does this care deficit have on clinical trials? In a five year summary and analysis performed by the FDA, data showed that 76% of trial participants were white while 69% were under 65 years of age. This significant disparity in race and age highlights a known problem: That the site-based clinical trial model prevents organizations from enrolling and retaining a diverse group of participants.
But restricting access to clinical trial participation does more than have adverse effects on participant diversity—it negatively impacts clinical trial outcomes. Data from 2016 shows that 50% of trials are delayed due to issues with recruitment, while some trials struggle to find participants who are able to participate at all, incurring a significant cost with no potential to recoup after a successful trial.
How Vault’s People-First, Decentralized Approach Can Provide Solutions
Vault is a people-first business. We believe in increasing access to high-quality, personalized care.
Our entrance into the clinical trial space is a continuation of that core mission: We leverage our technology to ensure that every participant touchpoint is seamless; that all participants who want to take part have access regardless of their socioeconomic status, age, location, or ability; and that the range and breadth of capabilities of the clinical trial staff and investigators are fully supported.
Here’s how we do it:
Nationwide clinical practice: There are over 1,200 licensed practitioners that make up Vault’s national medical group, some of whom already serve as clinical study staff and investigators. These practitioners are located all over the United States and are able to connect with clinical trial participants at home or virtually using Vault’s telehealth platform.
Improve participant enrollment and retention: Participants can meet with clinical staff virtually for scheduled visits or supervision while measuring vital signs or obtaining specimens. And when an in-person visit is necessary, our staff can visit clinical trial participants at home. Not only does this mean we’re more likely to retain existing participants, but it also enables us to cast a wider net in the first place—increasing the pool of potential clinical trial participants to build a more diverse, representative cohort.
Comprehensive technology platform: Our telehealth platform removes the most significant barriers when it comes to trial participation, enabling a more subject-centered approach to the trial at hand. What’s more, our technology stack offers efficient integrations, allowing us to seamlessly facilitate sample collection, clinical discussion, and clinical data collection—while also ensuring that samples get from point A to point B securely. We can also obtain and manage any additional data needed during a clinical trial.
As trials get back on their feet, contract research organizations will need tailored and flexible solutions to fit this new landscape.
Our modular approach tailored to the participants’ needs enable us to power rapid and seamless clinical trials. With our platform, clinical practice, and expertise, we can help these organizations build faster and more efficient trials suited for the post-pandemic participant population.
Visit this page to learn more about Vault’s clinical trials.