Why user insights are crucial for successful clinical trials

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“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” That was the view of Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs – and it seems to work, with 1.3 billion iPhones sold worldwide and more than 100 million people using Macs.

Yet when it comes to healthcare, all too often the focus is on the latest novel therapy, regardless of whether it may come with delivery challenges that make it difficult for some patients to receive treatment.

Someone who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, for example, might struggle to use a prefilled syringe unless it has been ergonomically designed for patients with dexterity issues. And an elderly person with cognitive issues might find it hard to follow the instructions for a home testing kit for bowel cancer screening.

For many years, non-adherence was regarded as poor patient behaviour that could be solved with better instruction. But we now know that patients often stop or change their regimen because they find it difficult to administer their drugs or carry out tests at home. These challenges outweigh the perceived benefits of the therapy, as far as the patient is concerned.

That’s why user insights hold the key to successful clinical trials. Even the best-performing new drug won’t work if a patient with mobility and dexterity issues can’t retrieve it from their fridge at the appropriate time and follow the instructions to self-inject correctly.

At Sanome, we are working on identifying the combinations of biomarkers that signify the start of different illnesses – paving the way for a new generation of at-home diagnostic tests for early detection or even prevention of disease.

That means we need to understand how patients interact with technology – by watching them use different devices and talking to them about their likes and dislikes. If someone hates receiving notifications on their phone, for example, an app that reminds them when it’s time to do a test is unlikely to be successful – they’ll just turn off the ‘annoying’ notifications.

Clinical trials represent a significant investment of time and money, so it makes sense to maximise the chances of success by harnessing crucial user insights right from the start.