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Breaking Barriers: How Premier’s Partnerships, Real-World Data and AI Technology are Helping Expand Access to Cancer Clinical Trials

Key takeaways:

  • In the U.S., there’s a patient diversity problem in cancer clinical trials that directly affects the quality of patient care and outcomes for underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  • According to an ASCO Task Force, a combination of innovative partnerships, processes, and clinical trial design and execution is necessary to increase study opportunities and drive participation with minority groups and those living in underserved communities.
  • Through our PINC AI™ Applied Sciences division, Premier is tapping the power of real-world data, artificial intelligence technology and scalable solutions to help reach more diverse patient populations, improve clinical trial catchment rates and advance health equity in the U.S.

Clinical trials are essential for understanding how new treatments, therapies and medical interventions impact the health of people. They enable researchers to evaluate the safety and efficacy of new drugs and devices; support regulatory submissions and approvals; and contribute to the development of real-world evidence (RWE) to improve disease understanding and explore further uses of products already in market.

While clinical trials are vital for advancing medical research, there’s widespread agreement that the landscape is challenging, especially in cancer clinical trials where research shows less than 5 percent of adult cancer patients enroll in cancer clinical trials, and a lack of participant diversity leads to inequities in cancer care.

A paper authored by members of an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Task Force published in January 2024 underscores the complex clinical trial landscape in the U.S. In the paper, ASCO stresses the urgent need to reach underserved communities and increase participation among diverse participants so that more patients have access to novel treatment options. One of the strategies ASCO recommends is to “foster partnerships to increase patient and local clinical access to trials.”

At Premier, we align with ASCO’s position and believe expanding access to clinical trials is crucial to paving the way for inclusive healthcare. Harnessing the power of our partnerships, real-world data (RWD), artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technology and scalable solutions, our PINC AI™ Applied Sciences (PAS) division is helping to break down barriers to clinical trial participation and advance health equity for all.

Here are three ways PAS is working with health systems, life sciences and medical device companies to drive greater participation and diversity in clinical trials.

Facilitating Clinical Trial Partnerships and Streamlining Processes

PAS has partnered with over 1,310 research sites that leverage shared clinical technology and data to enable faster identification of eligible patients and rapid-cycle research for compressed study timelines and increased speed to commercialization.

In partnership with our member health systems, PAS aims to optimize healthcare and its delivery through research and collaborative efforts. Using solutions and research powered by multi-dimensional data, the team can quickly provide RWE and insights that help advance clinical research.

This can help life sciences and medical device companies accelerate discovery, development and deployment of therapies. PAS’ research sites represent a diverse collection of health systems that are geographically diverse, including urban and rural areas of the U.S., and bring a wealth of experience and perspectives on research and clinical trial operations, innovation, information technology, data analytics and business development.

Enhancing Clinical Trial Design, Feasibility and Execution

By leveraging data and AI technologies, the PAS team is “flipping the funnel” to recruit for clinical trials based on where patients are versus where the relationships exist. Traditionally, clinical trial sites were selected solely based on experience and relationships with Principal Investigators at the site level. Often, the patients that meet the study criteria are not at those sites.

PAS’ robust RWD and AI solutions are changing this by estimating eligible patient population volumes with a new level of granularity and efficiency previously unattainable when screening sites to match trial protocols.

PAS is then able to assess the suitability of sites on a larger scale based on appropriate patient populations, investigator availability, experience in therapeutic areas and historical performance metrics. Based on this assessment, sites that have the best chance to outperform enrollment expectations can be selected.

PAS’ AI is also enabling clinical trial staff to rapidly, accurately and at-scale screen for potential patients instead of manual identification of patients who meet complex inclusion/exclusion criteria. Clinical decision support technology can alert a provider at the optimal point of patient interaction to ensure the chance to enroll the patient isn’t missed. With PAS’ AI-enabled RWD, clinical research timelines can be compressed, and solutions have the potential to be delivered at reduced costs.

In addition to helping health systems and life sciences and medical device companies find diverse trial candidates and trial sites, PAS is utilizing privacy-preserving record linkage technology to unite clinical trial data with RWD. The groundbreaking process enables PAS to generate RWE that is being used to:

  • Assess important long-term health outcomes outside of a clinical trial, improve drug safety and efficacy, and empower the healthcare industry to treat chronic care conditions more effectively.
  • Build a RWE control arm – which may eliminate the need for researchers to build a separate control arm – potentially shortening the duration and cost of a clinical trial and helping to improve the patient experience and outcomes by enabling all study participants to partake in the treatment and its potential benefits rather than a placebo, thereby increasing their access to medical care.

Increasing Clinical Trial Opportunities in Underserved Communities

PAS is utilizing the speed of AI-driven natural language processing (NLP) to help create opportunities for studies in the communities where underserved patients live and then identifying barriers to enrollment and informing strategies to reach these populations. These barriers may include lack of awareness about clinical trials, transportation issues, language issues, cultural norms and mistrust in the medical system.

Oftentimes, this information is found within the unstructured narrative or clinician notes in patient charts, which due to the large volume of data that’s available, can be challenging to manage and interpret. PAS’ NLP technology can be used to uncover these important details as well as select datasets that capture race, ethnicity, gender, age and non-insured patients – all of which are essential for diversifying clinical trials.

Additionally, by combing through unstructured data and clinicians’ narrative notes in patient charts, NLP – which can read and interpret more than 2 million records per hour – can uncover disparities like transportation issues, food insecurities and housing conditions that negatively impact the ability to find the right patients for the right trials and help them successfully take part.

By understanding the unique characteristics, needs, challenges and preferences of diverse populations, clinical trial developers can design more inclusive trial protocols and implement targeted recruitment strategies tailored to specific communities. AI-powered algorithms can then read and analyze large datasets for researchers to identify eligible participants who may have been overlooked by traditional recruitment methods, thus enhancing the diversity of the study population.

The Exciting Road Ahead

As we stand on the cusp of a new era in medical research, the path ahead in clinical trials holds unprecedented promise and excitement. With breakthroughs in technology, innovative methodologies and collaborative partnerships, the landscape of clinical research is evolving at an astonishing pace.

The potential to discover novel therapies, advance health equity and revolutionize healthcare for all is within our grasp – and Premier’s PAS team is at the forefront of this exhilarating journey. Their work, alongside their partners, to fuse science, technology and a commitment to improving patient outcomes paints a compelling picture of the future of clinical trials – one that holds the key to unlocking medical marvels and ushering in a new era of healthcare excellence.

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