Technology has been the driving force behind the way scientific research has been approached for centuries, but it has never changed as quickly as it has in the past two decades with the rise of the Digital Era. The landscape of the entire world has shifted as people adapt to having smartphones as metaphorical appendages and immediate gratification in the form of overnight purchase delivery and instant boredom alleviators. But when this technology changes how research is performed by moving clinical trials into the realm of virtual science, is that taking things a step too far?
The pros and cons of conducting virtual clinical trials are being debated and contested by scholars around the world. The question of its ethicalness is at the root of all concerns, but recent studies have been performed to evaluate the overall infrastructure of a virtual clinical trial. Now, the advantages and disadvantages are being weighed, and the impact of using long-distance studies to handle each aspect of a clinical trial is about to be felt on a global level.
What are Virtual Clinical Studies?
The definition of a virtual clinical study can be as specific or as vague as the researcher chooses. However, it generally refers to any study that uses digital health technology to partly or wholly enable participation from a remote location. Some terms that have been applied to this type of study include things like “decentralized” or “virtual,” as well as “site-agnostic.”
Even though a virtual clinical study does not have to be completely done with a long-distance participation involved, it does have to have some component of a digital health technology with a remote factor. In most cases, though, there is a headquarters of sorts, in which a centralized location is used for the data collection and analysis.
The Case Against Going Virtual in Medicine
Any time something new is attempted, there are always going to be concerns, but this is particularly true in the case of medicine. When the health and safety of others is on the line, there must be a strong attempt to ensure everything runs reliably and ethically.
Some scholars have concerns with virtual medicine becoming a regular aspect of clinical trials, such as:
● Technological issues from a distance, such as checking blood pressure and heart rates. The participant is the one operating the machines, so there is a lot more room for human error.
● Human ethical standards of treatment must always be at the forefront of all trials, but with virtual studies, these patients might not receive the standards that are considered to be ideal.
● Data accuracy might not be legitimate, since data is generated offsite and collected through processes that have not been solidified as reputable yet.
Until more studies have shown consistency and reliability in virtual trials, many funders won’t back this type of clinical study in medicine.
Potential Benefits to Virtual Trials
While not every clinical study is suitable for a virtual trial, when it is possible, there are many benefits that could make it feasible and preferable for all parties involved. Some potential advantages to virtual over site-specific trials include:
● Improved patient engagement with a patient-centered study that eliminates the problem of transportation for the participant and increases the individual’s comfort since they are in their own space. When the person participating feels safe, they are more likely to be honest with their feedback. Additionally, any possible mobility issues are taken care of at the source.
● The ability to capture data more consistently increases since the information is obtained in real-time, making the study’s timeline more efficient and allowing for better safety and measurement opportunities.
● Decreased costs through virtual trials are another benefit. With less need for multiple sites and transporting participants, the overhead and operating costs are lower.
● Less turnover rates with participants. Studies show that nearly 49% of the original set of individuals who choose to participate in a study will not make it through the entire timeline before dropping out. This is often from transportation and daily life issues that are no longer a problem when the study is done virtually.
Between these benefits and those to the research team in general as the work is more convenient for everyone involved, virtual clinical trials are becoming more the norm.
Using Impactio to Put Your Name on the Scholarly Map
Part of being able to formulate a solid clinical trial, whether on-site or virtual, is to have the right tools in which to develop them. Impactio is an all-in-one platform that was designed for academic experts to provide the tools needed to take them from start to finish with their research.
With Impactio, your work will put you on the scholarly map as a trendsetter in the Digital Era as you incorporate your findings into text blocks, subsections, and visual images. Take your data from confusing to clear as you turn it into charts, tables, and graphs with Impactio’s data building capabilities.
Once you’ve finalized your work as a professional PDF document or web page, you can submit it for publishing and get back to the fun part of research and clinical trials!