Mayo Clinic embracing digital changes to clinical trials

The development, testing and approval of the three COVID-19 vaccines in the United States happened in record time. Some of it was brought on by innovations in conducting clinical trials, which may forever transform the rollout of new drugs.

Dr. Naveen Pereira, a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular disease specialist, says the game changer was the use of digital patient portals for researchers to reach patients.

"So now we can electronically communicate with patients to guide the patient, say, to a website where they can look at a video of what the clinical trial is about and then perhaps download the consent form and sign it electronically and send it," said Pereira.

Smart phones will also play a major role in future medical trials by allowing patients to conduct baseline tests at home without having to go to the clinic or hospital.

"What we are seeing now is that there is a large number of smartphone-enabled applications that allow you to measure those physiologic variables on your smartphone, which means when you are doing your clinical trial, you don’t have to go to the hospital or the clinic to get your EKG done, or your pulmonary functions done, or the back or your eye looked at," said Dr. Andrew Badley, the chair of the Mayo Clinic COVID-19 research task force.

Dr. Badley says the technologies that will allow this to happen will only grow. He says medicine is quickly approaching a time when remote clinical trials will become the norm and not the exception.