When it comes to clinical trial participation, what defines “comfort” can vary greatly between different patient groups. Some patients prefer to travel to their trial site while others don’t. Some patients don’t mind traveling, but they don’t have the means or the free time it takes to get to the trial site. As the clinical trial landscape continues to innovate, biopharma and life science leaders are dubbing this patient-first approach as “optionality.”
20/20 Onsite has partnered with Block Clinical to offer a convenient and comfortable clinical trial experience that accommodates each patient's personal preferences. In one particular study, rare disease clinical trial patients did not have a site in their home country, so travel was necessary. Block Clinical worked to create a seamless patient experience as the patients traveled to the U.S.
Embracing the concept of “optionality,” 20/20 Onsite then used our specially-equipped Mobile Vision Clinics (MVC) that were already supporting the protocol to meet the patient at a desirable location. Launching what we’re referring to as a “Modified Decentralized Visit,” our teams worked together to blend travel, comfort, and optionality to create a seamless trial experience for the patients. To date, we have seen nine international patients who traveled from neighboring or European countries including Canada and Germany.
Read this interview with BlockClinical’s Senior Director of Business and Account Development, Eric Nier to learn how 20/20 Onsite and BlockClinical partner to alleviate the patient burdens of participation during a clinical trial.
Tell us about Block Clinical and your responsibilities there.
We started Block Clinical to be like the Expedia of clinical trials, where all patient logistics were booked and prepaid via a system that captured all transactions in real time. Typically, patient support models are very manual, time-consuming, and costly. We believed that every patient and every trial deserved to have the proactive management and approach that we provide, regardless of the study type and site location. We built the Block Clinical platform so we could keep the process automated and affordable in order to help companies make it easier to offer that kind of proactive support.
My role within the company is to work with clients and potential clients to bring the idea of a Strategic Patient Logistics Program to the table, as a manner of corporate infrastructure, much like a corporate travel program; think Concur. As Director of Business Development for Block Clinical, I have always been going out and telling that story. We were fortunate to have early adopters and a good client base that see this vision. Our key to success has always been new offerings and new technology that meet the niche needs of our clients. My job is to connect with industry leaders and look for new ideas or ways that we can continue to expand these strategic partnerships that benefit not only the patients but the organizations that employ them as well.
Can you tell us about your background in hospitality and how that translates well into your current position in the clinical research space?
I worked for the Ritz Carlton hotel company early in my career, and the motto for the Ritz Carlton is “the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.” For Block Clinical, it’s the same thing – but for the patients.
When I left the hotel industry, I went to work for a corporate meeting and event management company with a client base primarily in pharmaceuticals. A while back, a client approached us asking if we could provide the same logistics and hospitality that we did for their corporate meeting but for their patients. This is where hospitality impacted clinical trials to improve the patient experience and trial results. We realized just how much of an influence this model has on clinical trials in driving patient recruitment and retention.
How does Block Clinical partner with 20/20 Onsite (and other clinical research teams) to enhance the patient experience?
Anytime you can alleviate the burdens of participation, especially financial burdens, it’s going to make the patient experience much better. Partnering with 20/20 Onsite takes it to the next level because we’re able to choose locations where we can easily bring patients to the mobile unit. We can find a central location that's easy for all the patients to travel to, so it's not an overburden to get them to the site. For example, for a patient traveling from cross country or internationally to a site, we can now find a neutral mobile location to conduct visits to ease the visit experience.
The 20/20 Onsite Mobile Vision Clinic makes the process very versatile for us and the project teams. It gives us much more flexibility and options to deliver a customized experience for the patients, again, to drive retention and ease of participation. It also makes it easier for the study teams. One of the industry leaders commented saying we offer the “platform of choice.”
The way I see this working in the future is that patients will have a patient coordinator reach out to them and ask, “What kind of visit do you want? Do you want to go to the site? Do you want someone to come to your house? Do you want to do it virtually? The MVC is going to be in Durham and you’re in Raleigh. We’ll get you to the MVC because it’s passing through.”
Tell us about the accommodations that Block Clinical provides when a patient does have to travel to a trial site. What can a patient expect from start to finish?
The accommodations are customized based on the patient’s needs. Our patient coordinators communicate directly with the patients or caregivers to ensure that the needs of the patient are addressed for each on-site visit and support is there before, during, and after their travel.
For example, if a patient is immunocompromised, many times we will send them through airlines with what we call a “Covid kit” including masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and whatever else they need to protect themselves during travel. Again, it’s all very customized to each patient's individual needs.
How do international patients decide which city they are going to? How does Block Clinical play a role in this?
We look at our patients’ locations across the country and find a central location for them to meet. We look for flights and airports that are accessible, with easy transportation, and avoid layovers when possible.
The 20/20 MVC (Mobile Vision Clinic) will arrange to be there at the central location where we bring the patients which is a unique approach. In general, there are lots of moving parts and operations coordination happening behind the scenes. The most important part of all this is that the patient doesn’t feel that. They don’t know that we're routing a vehicle, finding flights, arranging ground transportation, and all the rest. Once arrangements are made, they are all smoothly delivered to the mobile location to complete screening with easy return trips!
Overall, it is a very smooth process and patient satisfaction is very high. The feedback that we received from patients on our partnership with 20/20 Onsite was excellent.
Is there a particular patient story that stands out to you?
There was a very important trial with sick immunocompromised patients. Once patients passed the pre-screening, we only had a couple of days notice to get patients to the site for screening. They didn’t want the patients flying commercial so we spent a considerable amount of time and resources chartering private aircrafts to get these patients and families where they needed to be.
Another example was having to fly a patient and family back home internationally before their visa ran out. We had a very short period of time to turn that around and had to do so with an accompanying physician to fly with the patient. You have to imagine airline ticketing with medical equipment onto an international flight in a short amount of time would be a logistical challenge. Thankfully, we completed it in time. The family was very appreciative which always makes all those challenges well worth it.
How do you see the patient experience in clinical research evolving over the next few years?
It’s a couple of things with optionality for the patient at the center. It’s going to be having a coordinator reach out to the patient to provide a schedule in line with the protocol to proactively manage the visits for our patients; however, providing visit options where applicable. Do you want a nurse to come to your house or would you prefer a virtual visit? If that's not feasible for you, we will present you with an option. Keeping in mind that as we look towards a decentralized/hybrid model, the patient is more in control of their options.
How can creative and strategic partners like Block Clinical and 20/20 Onsite continue supporting clinical research now and in the future? Why should sponsors and CROs be working towards this?
Having the Mobile Vision Clinic can be a huge cost-saver for sponsors because they can reduce the amount of regional pop-up sites. Then you look at it from the patient's perspective and there is a lot of convenience in that model–rather than flying long distances. It gives us a lot more flexibility and cost savings by partnering in this way.
By picking a hub city to have the MVC stationed in and flying patients to meet it is an efficient model; a modified decentralized visit if you will!
20/20 Onsite is the solution for your clinical trial.
Is your study looking to offer a better patient experience while reducing the risk of patient dropouts? Let’s discuss how 20/20 Onsite can help you get creative with solutions to enhance the patient experience. Get in touch with us today!