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3 reasons why clinical trials will thrive in 2021

It’s not often that a single event can change the trajectory of an entire system, yet that is exactly what has happened to healthcare systems across the world and clinical trials since the first case of COVID-19 in early 2020. With reduced access to primary care, limited capacity in hospitals, and clinical trial participants unable to visit investigator sites, it’s taken countless innovative changes in procedures to enable hospitals, clinics, and clinical trials to continue to serve patients throughout the pandemic.

But despite the hardships the pandemic has put on the industry, it just might have been the change we all needed to awaken the industry. Here are three reasons why the positive changes that have been made across the healthcare and clinical trials will thrive once again in 2021:

1. Telehealth use has matured during the pandemic

Doctor visits are an essential part of our lives, so the immediate change of having to convert to telephone and video calls was initially challenging. However, telehealth proved its utility. The elderly in particular were most apprehensive about the conversion of in-person appointments to telehealth. But as the pandemic progressed, the elderly started to use this medium considerably more. This is likely due to their increased susceptibility to COVID-19, and that online appointments enabled them to continue shielding from the safety of their homes. Now, not only has it increased the safety of those in high-risk COVID-19 categories, but telehealth has made its mark for being an easy, accessible and convenient alternative to in-person appointments.

Big pharma and the healthcare industry are beginning to be viewed in a better light

Before 2020, the general public had very little insight into the pharmaceutical world. In the UK, we may have even taken the NHS for granted. The pandemic has given the world a new perspective on the importance of healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry, it’s reignited our appreciation for our health service. It’s beginning to restore our sense of trust in the industry - rather than looking at big pharma as a corporate giant, we are now beginning to view them as hope for change. Never before has the world been so united whilst looking for treatments and vaccines, all of us are rooting for an end to the pandemic.

There is greater awareness of the importance of clinical trials

With greater awareness of the importance of healthcare, comes a new spotlight on clinical trials. Public perceptions of clinical studies are changing; what was once viewed as a very clinical and sterile subject, is now associated with a motivation to be a part of the solution to this pandemic. Further, the health inequalities that were presented by the pandemic have shed a light on the lack of diverse representation in clinical trials. However, with the FDA and PhRMA releasing new guidance it is likely we will start to see real change.

Final thoughts and directions for the future

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in a whole host of ways, but has left us with a shared, unified perspective on healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. And we must use this to our advantage.

We need to keep pushing and exploring new ways of conducting clinical trials to improve patient recruitment, the patient experience, and to challenge the lack of diversity in clinical trials. This is how we make healthcare available and beneficial to everyone, not just the select groups we currently overrepresent in trials. Whilst there are many consequences of the pandemic we will choose to forget over the coming years, let this revolution in healthcare not be one of them.

2020 shook the industry and the world. In 2021 we must continue to adapt so there will be #NoGoingBack.

This blog was first published here.

22nd January 2021

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