Online Patient Communities: Accelerating Clinical Trials And Improving Patient Outcomes
By Jim Kremidas, VP of market development, Quintiles’ Digital Patient Unit
Patients are taking an increasingly active role in managing their own healthcare. This continues a trend that 65% of physicians believe is linked to better outcomes. In this environment, online communities are becoming a powerful tool for clinical research — even raising the interesting possibility of carrying out elements of clinical trials without involving physicians.
This radical shift, where patients are becoming their own advocates rather than relying on their healthcare provider’s advice for managing their health, is largely the product of the Internet and the wide availability of medical information. The role of patient advocacy groups is also evolving, often focusing on driving traditional biopharma research to benefit their constituents, while individual patients are seeking practical guidance online to help manage their health. Online patient communities, which may be sponsored by a variety of groups, provide many benefits to patients, including connections with other people coping with similar conditions, advice on disease management, and information about clinical trials. These communities — for example, MediGuard.org and ClinicalResearch.com — also have the potential to improve trials and accelerate patient recruitment by prescreening potential participants online and by allowing protocol feasibility and messaging to be tested directly with patients.