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Where are AstraZeneca investing in digital health?

Three Digital Health R&D leaders at AstraZeneca outlined in a recent post how the organisation is harnessing data, analytics and digital technologies to transform drug development.

Digital health,  a concept that has emerged from the proliferation of analytics and data-driven technologies in the past decade, has become a key dimension of modern healthcare policy that offers a more efficient and powerful future.

The rise of web platforms and mobile health apps offering a greater number of opportunities for self-monitoring and more access points for the patients has by some been touted as the “uberization of healthcare”.

As a strategic priority to shorten the length of time it takes to get new therapies to the market, AstraZeneca, like many others, is increasingly implementing digital health technologies to streamline and optimise R&D. This transformation in how they work is already paying off – with 50% reduction in some manual tasks and financial savings of over one fifth in clinical studies.

In their post, Cristina Duran, Matt Bonam and Alicyn Campbell listed the digital tools developed by AstraZeneca that are currently being used across R&D:

  • Merlin – An AI and predictive analysis tool to optimise and automate the design, planning and management of clinical trials. This study design companion allows researchers to rapidly estimate costs and select optimal sites for better trial design and selection. Merlin reduces the amount of administration researchers need to do, freeing up their time for creating. The data leveraged by Merlin can help to increase patient recruitment and reduce dropouts, as well as help, create more diverse patient cohorts, that are better representative of the real population.
  • Control Tower – is an insight platform to inform researchers of the status of global, and region level trials, to help them predict patient recruitment. The information and visual analytics provided by Control Tower mean that researchers can make decisions based on real-time results to accelerate the clinical trial portfolio.
  • Supply chain digital enhancements – have boosted productivity and saved thousands of hours of manual labour, saving the organisation over $100 million. As well as reducing waste on clinical trials, the use of these digital enhancements, including content management systems, have massively accelerated the length of time it takes it to set up a trial.
  • Cloud platforms – the organisation was the first in the industry to replace their legacy trial management systems with cloud-based platforms to allow their teams globally to share trial data and insights.

Hybrid trials

As travel remains the number one factor in patients’ decision to drop out of clinical trials before completion, AstraZeneca, again like most other pharma organisations is astutely aware of how valuable digital data collection devices might be to increasing their trial success rates.

The real-world data sets that can be provided by digital monitors including wearables, can not only improve clinical decision making and trial design, but also improve patient experience, and most importantly outcomes.

AstraZeneca’s Trials@home initiative which employs virtual visits and non-invasive data collection to monitor patients from their own homes has allowed 70% of trial data to be collected outside of the hospital setting. For developing these hybrid trials the company is evaluating a catalogue of over 100 devices from a range of technology providers to assess their clinical validity at scale. Such devices have been employed up to phase III.

The potential rewards that can be reaped from using digital health technologies to transform traditional clinical development are only truly beginning to be realised. How quickly pharma companies can scale the deployment of data and analytics will surely differentiate the winners and the losers in the coming decade.

More on these topics

Clinical Trials / Digital Health / Wearables

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