Home-based clinical trials will be possible in the future

20 January 2021

Participate in a clinical trial from the comfort of your own home. It may sound a little crazy, but it is actually possible in many respects. The Danish Medicines Agency has started a project to enable researchers and pharmaceutical companies to conduct so-called decentralised clinical trials which by means of new technologies make it easier for people to participate in clinical trials. It makes it more convenient for the participants and increases efficiency, while ultimately getting medicines to market faster for the benefit of patients.

Testing medicines in human beings in so-called clinical trials is crucial for us to develop the medicine we need if we get ill. But it may not be easy to find participants for the clinical trials because participation could take a great deal of effort.

Traditional clinical trials usually take place at one participation site – either a hospital or other research site.  For participants, this could mean numerous visits to the hospital where the trial is conducted and thus hours of travelling back and forth, which could be burdensome for participants – and detrimental to the recruitment of willing participants and the diversity of the trial participants.

Clinical trials brought to the participant's home

The Danish Medicines Agency is working together with patients, researchers and the patient industry, etc. to find ways for more elements of clinical trials to be home-based (decentralised) in the development of medicines.

The recent year’s advancement of new technologies in the healthcare area has made it possible to conduct many elements of a clinical trial from the research participant’s own home. The possibilities of the new technologies include online consultations with the doctor and electronic collection of clinical trial data from the participants. Such data could be received via electronic units like smart watches, thus providing much more detailed knowledge about the course of a disease, which would otherwise necessitate physical attendance and contact in a traditional clinical trial. Blood samples, for example, could be taken at the participant’s home or at a local healthcare provider.

In this way, home-based clinical trials can move the collection of data outside of hospital walls and exploit digital technologies that can enable examinations at the participant’s home, instead of requiring participants to travel to the hospital. It gives participants much easier access to the leading university hospitals from anywhere in Denmark regardless of their mobility and the physical distance.

Faster development of medicines

By bringing clinical trials into the participant’s own home or their local environment, the barriers to participation are reduced. The fewer barriers there are, the easier it will be for researchers and pharmaceutical companies to recruit different population groups and retain them in the trials. It ensures participant diversity, which is beneficial for clinical trials, ultimately accelerating the conduct of trials, and implying that medicines will reach patients faster. 

You can read more about decentralised clinical trials here: Clinical trials of the future place the patient at the centre.