The Value of Diverse Community-Based Hospitals in Clinical Research

Author: John Potthoff, Ph.D., CEO

Among the many healthcare inequities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, disparities within clinical trial conduct were among the most glaring. Diverse, community-based hospitals are invaluable resources for an industry that must seek to solve its long-standing issues with lack of racial and socioeconomic inclusivity. 

Elligo’s mission is to eliminate these disparities by connecting primary care physicians and their patients with clinical research as a care option, providing a direct link to clinical trial opportunities that less than 3% of physicians currently participate in. By eliminating the prohibitive burdens of administrative infrastructure and staffing, streamlining key processes, technology, and services, it allows physicians to keep their focus where it ought to be: on the patient.

Through the use of electronic health record (EHR) data, there is a unique ability to match specific trials to the physicians who treat patients that might qualify for those trials. This enables these physician partners to offer cutting-edge treatments to their patients that would otherwise be unavailable.

Traditional clinical research enrollment has been concentrated from large, coastal, academic research centers in larger cities — and has drawn from the relatively homogenous enrollment pool found in such areas. Basic demographics and geographic restrictions (if you haven’t lived close to a trial site, you haven’t been able to participate) have led to a persistent lack of diversity. Multisite clinical trials help vary the available population, crucial because the exact same treatment can affect different ethnic groups in different ways. Ensuring a treatment is broadly effective once it is widely available within the healthcare system requires diversity in clinical trial participation. 

Community-based hospitals provide a ready-made solution, a bridge between underrepresented populations and the clinical trials that so badly need their participation. Reducing the burden on both sides of the patient/physician relationship is key to increasing long-term levels of engagement. By addressing the patient-side burdens that center around travel and geographic isolation, while simultaneously eliminating the time and resource costs that have traditionally kept physicians from offering clinical research as a care option, an equitable solution is established that benefits all participants.

This simple solution eliminates problems that have long been seen as basic, structural, and very difficult to overcome. We need to look past the false perceptions that stop us from finding solutions that have come to be seen as pervasive issues — but actually aren’t. For example, recruitment and enrollment difficulties are routinely blamed on the scarcity of patients. But there is a tremendous abundance of patients; they’re simply in healthcare systems that have been long overlooked by the traditional clinical trials industry.

And COVID-19 vaccine trials proved conclusively that we can execute full trial protocols from startup to close much faster than previously assumed. All while dramatically increasing the diversity of participants by engaging community-based hospitals and regional healthcare systems, bringing unprecedented access to clinical research for patients and physicians who lacked these opportunities until now. 

It is mandatory that we maintain the momentum generated by the healthcare community’s teamwork around the pandemic. There is no reason why this improved connectivity and access to research as care has to end. All patients are deserving of new therapies and better targeted treatments.

Contact Elligo today to learn more about how you can play a vital role in helping to advance better treatment to the patients who need them by becoming a research-enabled organization.