Clinical trials have long been considered an integral component of developing innovative treatments. However, clinical trials continue to struggle to gain representative patient data; only 5% of American adults have ever participated in a clinical trial, and low accrual often contributes to under enrollment or termination of many trials. Participation tends to be unrepresentative of the general U.S. population in addition, leading to a lack of diversity that can negatively impact patient outcomes. As a result, real world data (RWD) has risen in the industry as an innovative alternative. RWD, or data extracted from sources such as patient medical records or health information, has proven to provide a powerful means of conducting clinical research and influencing patient care, particularly in difficult to find patient populations. Yet, many hospitals and health systems still do not participate in these research efforts or effectively manage clinical data to unlock its ultimate value.
One recent survey of professionals holding managerial, executive, or other leadership roles at hospitals and health systems throughout the United States found that over half of respondents noted using real world data in clinical research at their facility as a top priority. This result demonstrates that healthcare professionals understand the value of clinical data in making impactful changes in the health care industry. Yet only 32% of respondents shared that their facility or health system was actively sharing real world data to support clinical research. This is despite 59% of respondents sharing that, from their perspective, patients are either very or somewhat comfortable with the idea of their de-identified data being shared for clinical research. However, significant barriers are precluding hospitals and health systems from sharing RWD for clinical research.
According to the survey, 65% of respondents attributed a lack of resources as a reason preventing their facility from currently using and/or sharing real world data with other organizations. While a shortage of resources has been an ongoing challenge in the health care industry, a deficit of healthcare professionals to capture and interpret clinical data can have considerable implications. By taking action to prevent burnout among staff, leveraging new technology and automation, and even partnering with professional third parties, the clinical data management process can be both streamlined and optimized for the betterment of clinical research. One potential first step for hospitals may be to conduct an assessment to understand existing data efforts across quality improvement, registry participation, and research efforts to understand existing data and efficiencies to gain with minimal new investment. Many hospitals have found that this enterprise data strategy can actually support improved funding of data initiatives from external research partnerships.
An additional reason underlined in the survey that has impeded the sharing of RWD are concerns surrounding data privacy, These concerns are far from unwarranted; in 2022, 51.9 million records were exposed by healthcare data breaches, and one 2022 IBM report found that healthcare breach costs have increased by 41.6% since 2020. However, there are steps hospitals and health systems can take to ensure data security while still prioritizing sharing data for clinical research. By investing in modern IT infrastructure, hospitals, and health systems can minimize resulting damages from a cyberattack. This includes encrypting data stored and transmitted, setting up data recovery and backup mechanisms, and implementing two-factor login authentication for those with access to information systems. Extensive workforce security training and security incident response plans will also maximize protection against cyberattacks.
While clinical data captured from real world settings continues to impact research and life sciences, it is also within the power of hospitals and health systems to best leverage its value and ultimately improve patient outcomes and inform treatment modalities. The health care industry is likely to continue grappling with issues that may make it challenging to prioritize the utilization of clinical data, but investments and a strategy to utilize this information will prepare hospitals to glean insights into hospital operations, advance health equity strategies, fund research, and deliver better, efficient care.
With the right measures and priorities, the healthcare industry will be able to overcome the obstacles typically associated with the management of clinical data and improve the standards for healthcare of patients nationwide.
Victor Wang is the SVP of data and research at Q-Centrix.
Published in DOTmed Healthcare Business News. Read the full article here.