Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Research

AI-powered clinical virtual assistants are exactly what they sound like – robot virtual assistants that work with study teams to handle routine tasks. These AI assistants can help study teams manage each participant in their journey from “interested” to study completion and beyond. AI-assistants are always available to provide support in multiple languages and can engage with participants by phone, text, or email- 24/7. Advanced AI assistants are personalized, conversational, empathetic, and engaging. Virtual assistants can automate clinical study processes and improve the participant experience.

Clinical studies can be very confusing for participants, especially when it comes to the enrollment and onboarding processes. Some have just been introduced to clinical research and are navigating through the maze of new terminology and processes. 

Transparency and communication are the most important parts of this phase in the journey.  According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), over 80% of clinical trials in the U.S. do not meet participant enrollment timeline goals.1 This is primarily because of leakage in the qualification process where only 9% of identified participants actually end up enrolling and randomizing in a study.2  Improve screening and enrollment process in clinical research

To tackle the problem of participant leakage in the qualification process, consider a virtual approach with the following tactics.

  • Virtual and Immediate Screening: After participants express their desire to participate, virtual and immediate screening allows participants to quickly discover if they qualify. Screening for critical questions earlier on in the process also enhances participant safety. You can enable virtual screening either through web screeners or web survey tools like Qualtrics. AI-assisted virtual assistants can provide enhanced conversational navigation to lead participants seamlessly from consideration into qualification. If the participant is not eligible, this is an opportunity to inform the participant and set up re-engagement points for future trial participation that is right for that participant (Phase 3, Phase 4, or Registry). 
  • Scheduling Consent: A good way to increase conversion is to schedule a virtual consent visit immediately after a participant meets basic eligibility criteria. This keeps participants engaged in the process and demonstrates that your study team can provide the care the participant requires to make an informed decision. If participants are not scheduled immediately they are at an elevated risk of dropping out. Also, enable participants to schedule a time they feel most comfortable speaking with your study team. This is incredibly empowering for participants and helps them feel like they are in control. 

You can provide “smart scheduling” with a dedicated team member or you can set up an AI-powered virtual assistant to allow participants to easily schedule a time that works for them by simply saying “I’m free at 9 AM Thursday”. Allowing for automated scheduling gives you more time to focus on face-to-face human interactions to help participants better understand the clinical study.  

  • Virtual Consent Visit (eConsent): Virtual visits are amazing opportunities to build deep rapport with participants, and this is where study teams can shine! By this point, with the help of virtual and automated tools, you will have saved time so you can be ready to connect with your participants over phone or video calls and begin building clinically meaningful relationships. Participants benefit greatly from this time and can experience more certainty about the process and fully understand the risks and benefits by speaking with a study team member.

During the virtual visit, send participants the informed consent documentation so they can follow along. Most importantly, allow participants to sign the documents virtually through an eConsent platform. Search your organization because you may already have access to broad licenses for platforms like DocuSign.

Participants are missing virtual appointments more and more and this consumes valuable resources that could be deployed elsewhere. You can increase show rates for virtual appointments by sending a gentle reminder before the appointment and “nudge” as it starts. If a participant misses an appointment, allow them to quickly reschedule automatically. 

AI-powered virtual assistants provide personalized reminders and smart nudges at the right time. They can also help participants quickly reschedule missed appointments or provide adaptive updates if necessary. For example, if participants are early to their virtual appointment, a virtual assistant is smart enough to know to share various videos and study content while the participant is waiting.

By Raj Sharma