In a World of Digital Adoption, How Do We Overcome the Resistance to Technology in Drug Development?

Posted in Process Improvement

Despite the increasing use of digital devices worldwide, only 14-31% of sponsors and providers reported using mobile health technologies and virtualized approaches to clinical trials, including telehealth, in our recent survey (The 2018 Industry Research Report: Perspectives on Clinical Innovation & Technology). Although at least the same proportion of respondents, particularly providers, indicated plans for future use of these technologies and approaches, challenges remain for their adoption.

The results also indicate that, as an industry, we have increased investment and experimentation with technology but have regressed in their adoption. Therefore, it seems as if we failing to commit to adoption even when an innovative approach to clinical research has demonstrated success.


What are The Challenges To Broad Adoption?

In response to an open-ended question regarding the primary challenges they face in using novel data sources and technologies in clinical trials, the themes for both sponsors and providers centered around cost, culture, and pragmatic challenges with integration: specifically system integration, legal compliance (including privacy), regulatory compliance, and culture.

When sponsors were asked what providers could do to overcome these challenges, their responses indicated that they are looking to providers for validation and evidence that supports the use of new technology, evidence-based results, assistance with integration, and a promise of data security.

When providers were asked the same question about sponsors, they indicated that they look to sponsors to get engaged with smarter/more advanced data collection tools, a greater level of collaboration, and openness to risk/change.

Essentially, sponsors focused their recommendations on the innovative solutions themselves, while providers’ advice centered around the behaviors needed to readily adopt the solutions.


5 Tactics To Overcome The Challenges And Enable Innovation

To help overcome these challenges, we recommend five key tactics for sponsors and providers to implement, both within their individual companies and collectively as an industry.

1. Illustrate how data security, data quality, and data integrity are designed into the solution.

Among sponsors’ topmost concerns is ensuring that data collected using new technologies maintains its integrity and quality. Therefore, we recommend clear illustration and documentation of data flow, including defining how data will move between third parties and third-party systems and the controls in place to ensure security and integrity throughout the data chain of custody.

2. Use collaboration as a fulcrum.

Adoption of new technologies and innovative approaches to clinical research, including increased virtualization of clinical trials, create challenges and opportunities that span the pragmatic through the philosophical. Collaboration is the fulcrum we should leverage to maximize how we handle these challenges and opportunities as an industry.

3. Focus on risk management and change management.

Risk and change management are disciplines that have a great deal in common and are especially important for the adoption of innovative technology, data sources, and approaches to clinical research that reinvent long-standing designs.

4. Invest in cross-disciplinary staff development.

Developing the knowledge and capabilities of existing staff is a key element of change management and an important, if not overlooked, investment to expedite adoption and value recognition of clinical innovation.

5. Lead by example and action.

The final tactic to overcome challenges in adopting technology and innovation in clinical research is to lead by example. Whether a CEO or CRA, every clinical trial professional has the opportunity to contribute leadership and action to the biopharma industry’s transformation.


To more efficiently advance drug development, through the use of successful technologies, we need to leverage these five key areas to overcome the challenges to adoption. To learn more about implementing these key tactics, additional details are available in our article recently published in Clinical Leader: 5 Tactics To Overcome Technology & Innovation Adoption Challenges In Clinical Research.


To download the 2018 Avoca Industry Report, “Perspectives on Clinical Innovation & Technology” click the image below (or click here).