Migrating to the cloud can make CROs more efficient and better equipped to scale in line with growing demand

Farsighted clinical research organisation (CRO) leaders are harnessing the benefits of cloud-based clinical trials to reduce the enormous costs and long lead times of traditional clinical trials. In this article, we outline why it makes sense to transition from traditional to cloud-based clinical trials.

Cloud-based Clinical Trials are the Future

The acceleration of digitalisation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has not bypassed the CRO industry. COVID-19 has prompted widespread adoption of trial models and tactics such as virtual or decentralised clinical trials (DCTs) and remote patient monitoring (RPM). These new practices will have enduring effects on how clinical trials are designed and carried out.

However, digitalisation can be problematic for organisations involved in clinical trials. Unlike other industries that were able to respond quickly, some CROs have been slower to adapt. Traditional clinical research, trial management and implementation is expensive, complex and slow. This is largely because all data and documentation are stored and managed as paper records, which is a massively inefficient approach and vulnerable to security breaches.

The CRO market is forecast to grow by 11.48% by 2023. To sustain this level of growth, CROs will have to find ways to work more efficiently. As researchers look at how to move forward, cloud-based clinical trial solutions could be part of the answer.

What the Future Looks Like

Visionary CRO leaders have set their sights beyond the simple provision of clinical trials to the loftier goal of becoming healthcare intelligence partners for major pharmaceutical companies.

To achieve that aim, CROs are turning to new cloud-based clinical trial platforms that can support multiple applications and many thousands of users worldwide. These platforms are designed to support a range of applications and programs, including virtual care delivery, DCTs and other research and information-related services.

By moving their in-house web applications to a cloud-based service, CROs can quickly scale up to meet surges in demand and increase their application availability.

5 ways CROs can Benefit From a Cloud-based Approach

Although some traditional CROs may be hesitant to adopt cloud-based clinical trials, the approach offers several unassailable advantages, particularly in relation to cost, speed, security, centralisation and transparency.

1. Cost efficiencies

Using a cloud platform to run clinical trials means CROs pay only for the resources they use. This allows CROs to operate more efficiently by reducing IT costs and accelerating the deployment of new technologies and processes.

In fact, research from IBM suggests that many life sciences organisations could save as much as 25% on the annual cost of operating their clinical IT systems by using cloud computing. Moving to a cloud-based clinical trial management system (CTMS) would eliminate the cost of purchasing, installing, provisioning and maintaining the hardware required to run it, as well as the cost of software licensing.

2. Faster trials

A cloud-based CTMS can be deployed quickly to facilitate a complete clinical trial cycle. CROs can tailor a cloud-based CMS to their requirements faster than they could with traditional clinical trial software because enterprise cloud applications are highly configurable by design.

With real-time data transfer for query management, instant feedback and rapid data cleaning, cloud-based clinical trials are streamlined and efficient. With all the data in one central repository, statisticians can analyse metrics in real time, further improving efficiency and resulting in faster clinical trials.

3. Data security

Security concerns are a key source of hesitancy for CROs considering cloud-based clinical trials. However, one of the biggest benefits of a centralised cloud is the way in which it can apply multiple layers of security to sensitive patient data. Multi-tiered defenses present a series of barriers to attackers, so that even if they manage to get past one, their progress will be blocked by many more.

Given that their business success relies on customer trust, cloud providers are heavily invested in working to ensure data protection. Established security features include encryption, the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), strict governance policies, data retention and business continuity planning and access controls such as password management and multifactor authentication.

4. Centralisation

Using cloud-based EDC (Electronic Data Capture) software means data from multiple sources is captured, stored and processed in one central platform, enabling more efficient data monitoring and reporting and enhanced communication and collaboration. This is particularly useful for clinical trials with complex logistics, such as multiple sites and many thousands of remotely monitored participants. Centralising all the data in a single repository can reduce the duration of a clinical trial by months.

5. Real-time visibility

Traditionally, clinical trials have been run on infrastructures comprising multiple distributed systems with vendors that work in silos. This approach makes operational visibility problematic, complicating data correlation and consuming excessive IT capacity to manage.

Cloud-enabled reporting generates reliable data for risk-based monitoring (RBM) because the data is available in real time without any data transfer lag time. This means that managers can make swift decisions in the event of a serious incident because they are alerted immediately.

Where the future lies for clinical research technology

Modern clinical trial management systems offer a comprehensive solution for all clinical trial stakeholders. They remove silos, enhance visibility and facilitate the centralised monitoring and oversight required to manage trials properly.

By reducing data processing time and improving study administration, they help to resolve the time and financial issues that beset CROs in the running of clinical trials. Working with a partner, CROs can set up and integrate the cloud-based solution that works best for them.

Misconceptions around the risks of moving to the cloud still skew perceptions of how transformative this technology could be for clinical trials, but these misgivings will recede as the benefits are experienced more widely across the industry.

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