How Digital Health Techniques Can Help Improve DEI in Clinical Trials


Verana Health

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have become increasingly important areas, as we try to improve equity and patient outcomes. Challenges around DEI in clinical trial participation is a topic that the industry is acutely aware of, and has been trying to address for some time. There is an important additional factor surrounding DEI in trials, and that is the very real differences in clinical efficacy of a study drug. As one might surmise, this depends on the patients recruited and enrolled in the trial itself. 

The insufficiency of diversity in clinical trials spans across multiple therapies, including the three of which are Verana Health’s focus areas: neurology, ophthalmology, and urology. While some progress has been made, improvements are still needed. I believe digital health companies, such as Verana Health, can play a unique role in helping to reduce disparities in regards to access and enrollment in clinical trials.

In order to find solutions, we must first uncover the exact disparities. Real-world data (RWD) can be used to analyze electronic health record data from diverse patients to help identify inequitable patterns of treatment outcomes, access to care, and disease prevalence among all patient populations. By helping uncover these disparities, policymakers and healthcare professionals can begin to develop targeted interventions and work to allocate resources more effectively.

Once certain disparities are defined, digital health techniques can help play a pivotal role in increasing awareness. Here’s how:

  1. By leveraging targeted digital marketing and social media campaigns that are socially conscious 
  2. By creating and disseminating educational materials, campaigns, multilingual outreach programs, culturally conscious imagery, and appropriate messaging to help engage all potential participants  
  3. By collecting and analyzing data on participation rates and outcomes of historically underrepresented groups in clinical trials

Beyond helping to recruit a diverse patient population, predictive analytics can also be used in trial design. The idea is to help support the creation of protocols that carefully consider how trial participation and investigational treatments, or medical devices, may affect participants differently.

Prior to a clinical trial commencing, RWD can be analyzed to help predict disease progression, identify risk factors, and detect early signs of illness among specific populations. This can lead to the design of trial protocols that include such factors in their inclusion criteria. Additionally, RWD can be used to identify social determinants of health (SDOH). Understanding SDOH helps further uncover underlying, contributing factors of health inequities.

Verana Health’s analytical tools can help facilitate the inclusion of diverse populations in clinical trials, while also ensuring treatments are rigorously studied in those same populations. Ultimately, this can help ensure results are truly generalizable. 

In addition to protocol design, digital health companies can also help play a key role in assisting with improved trial execution. Verana Health is well-equipped and positioned to better collect data both retrospectively and prospectively in a manner which will encourage broad trial participation. Accessibility to trial sites is a contributing factor to racial disparities in trials. Having the ability to collect data remotely, with little or no burden to the study participant, could be a game changer in allowing for greater representation in trials.

Verana Health is committed to increasing diversity in trials with tools, such as VeraSite, which can provide sponsors and contract research organizations with information on patient demographics based on geography. 

If you are a sponsor who is designing a study, and would like to ensure the study is designed to maximize participation from participants across diverse patient populations, contact us

If you are a research site that is looking to join a network that is at the forefront of not only innovative research, but helping to ensure equity and representation, consider joining our Verana Research Network.

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