How Uber and Lyft Address Patient Adherence and Transportation Problems Plaguing Clinical Trials

Part of the challenge for developing innovative new medicines is getting enough patients to enroll in clinical trials. But it’s not enough to enroll patients in these studies. Patients need to keep returning to clinical trial sites in order for those drug studies to be conducted in a complete and timely fashion. One solution might come from outside of the healthcare field. Ride-hailing companies might be part of a transportation solution ensuring patient adherence to clinical trial requirements. In some places it’s already happening, according to MobiHealthNews.

Current approaches of encouraging patients to go to clinical trial sites include taxi vouchers and bus passes. But those approaches leave too much of a chance that the patient won’t follow through with the trip, John Brownstein, CIO of Boston Children’s Hospital and health advisor to Uber, said at a recent healthcare conference. An estimated $6 billion are spent annually on healthcare transportation, but problems keeping patients in clinical trials persist, he said, according to MobiHealthNews’ report.

“We have a massive number of no-shows at and transportation plays a really critical role,” Brownstein explained. “And when you look specifically at clinical trials, we have major issues with dropouts and we know some of those are just about logistics, just about getting to those trials.”

Independent research backs up Brownstein’s comments. A National Research Council report on why patient drop out rates in Phase III clinical trials top 30 percent found that transportation was one of the top factors, according to FierceBiotech. Those problems worsen over the course of lengthy trials.

Ride-hailing companies are positioning themselves to fill the healthcare transportation gap. Both Uber and Lyft are testing out systems that allow clinical trial sites to coordinate the rides themselves, interacting with patients via text message and handling all of the billing. Lyft’s project shuttling patients to the medical sites has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in wait times, a 32 percent reduction in cost, and a satisfaction rate of 80 percent, MobiHealthNews reported citing data published in JAMA. With numbers like that, patients are more likely to stay in a clinical trial for the study’s duration — good news for trial sites and the pharmaceutical sponsors funding their clinical research.

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