NMFQ and Microsoft Launch National Clinical Trial Network
The National Minority Quality Forum has announced collaboration between its National Health Index and Microsoft Corporation to launch the National Clinical Trial Network. The collaboration is designed to address important challenges in clinical trials, such as recruitment and diversity. Associate Web Editor Mia Burns interviewed Bill O’Leary, senior director and chief health policy officer, Microsoft and Gary Puckrein, president and CEO, National Minority Quality Forum.
Q: How do you expect big data to change how you conduct clinical trials?
GP: We anticipate that big data will help with two key challenges with clinical trials: including diverse populations and the ability to identify and locate diverse patient populations. We have learned from our National Health Index that diseases concentrate geographically as a consequence of where people live and variations in biological and environmental risk, so we have a lot of useful data.
BOL: Big data can play an important role in assisting in targeting populations, disease states and even specific providers so we can quickly identify patients who can benefit the most from a new therapy and look to recruit them to participate in trials.
Q: How do you expect this initiative to accelerate diversity within clinical trials? For those who may not know, why is diversity being encouraged within trials?
GP: Current clinical research enterprise is antiquated and has been unable to efficiently recruit diverse populations into trials. This is an important issue because the small numbers of minorities in clinical trials can have an impact on our understanding of efficacy and safety of therapies in these patient populations. Demographics are shifting and by 2020, 40 percent of US population will be minority and by 2050 it will rise to more than half, making it critical that these patients are included in clinical trials.
BOL: Leveraging big data will allow the industry to modernize the way they recruit and conduct trials, benefiting both the industry and patients.
Q: Are there plans to take this initiative abroad, or is it only for the United States at this time?
GP: We expect the approach of this initiative and the use of big data will improve outcomes both globally and in the United States, but the current focus is on minority populations in the United States.
Q: Are you able to share anything about the conversations with stakeholders?
GP: As part of this initiative we have been engaging pharmaceutical companies, providers, and PhRMA, the industry trade association. Pioneering companies in the pharma space recognize the demographic shift means the growth of an even more bio-diverse population, creating an urgency to recruit more minorities into trials. In addition, through healthcare reform the minority consumer base has greatly expanded. Companies appreciate that clinical studies conducted today will support growth in this emerging market by having the science to demonstrate therapies are safe and efficacious in diverse populations.
Q: When did the discussions for this partnership start?
BOL: Over the past year Microsoft has collaborated with NMQF in a number of ways including public and private innovation forums and through mutual support of Johnson & Johnson’s Gateway to a Healthy Community program. In fall 2012, NMQF approached Microsoft to collaborate on its plans for the National Clinical Trial Network. Through the collaboration Microsoft will be involved in envisioning the technology solution and participating in various discussions with NMQF and the industry around the path forward for this program.
Q: How is NHI’s Internet access unparalleled?
GP: At the population level, healthcare is really about patterns and pattern recognition. NHI is using big data to make visible those patterns by measuring the health status and health outcomes of the American population at the community level, and making the findings publicly available. The patterns will tell us where we need to intervene, how populations are progressing, and where new therapies can have the greatest benefit, which in turn will allow us to reduce cost in the system by down-regulating avoidable events and encouraging highly targeted innovations.
Posted: October 2013