To bring or not to bring. Exploring the future of the BYOD data collection

Along with the ever-expanding focus of pharma and clinical trial experts on the experience of patients participating in clinical trials, for the past couple of years eClinical developers have kept advocating for an even easier way for subjects to submit information during a clinical trial. Traditionally, Electronic Clinical Outcome Assessments (eCOA) data has been captured with  devices procured by sponsors. But the switch toward the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) strategy which has been taking shape recently makes it possible for data to be entered both on a sponsor-owned device as well as on a patient’s personal mobile device. 

In a nutshell, what is BYOD?

The BYOD approach allows the patients recruited for a study to report on treatment results via their personal gadgets (smartphones or tablets). The BYOD concept is likely to help CROs and pharmaceutical sponsors to reduce equipment, maintenance, telecommunications, and logistics costs, as well as to increase flexibility in capturing data. However, while being quite a breakthrough in the field of data management, BYOD still remains a subject of dispute among researchers. Some researchers continue to have misgivings and reservations about introducing BYOD, opting for non-BYOD methods which have been working reliably in the past. Here are some of the concerns and challenging points raised by those who are still reluctant to make a switch toward BYOD. 

Regulatory compliance. One of the concerns some researchers express is that BYOD, being only recently introduced, has yet to gain a solid regulatory platform to back it up with. Reality proves, however, that regulators have been catching up as well. As per the Passed in 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act by the FDA endorses patient experience data for drugs and devices (Sec. 3001 and 3002). This includes data submitted from personal smartphones and tablets. 

Data security  is another pressing concern associated with patient data, which organizations of all sizes need to understand. Unquestionably, the issue of security needs to be a top priority, and staff at all levels have to be regularly trained on how to ensure that sensitive information (patient PHI, etc) is not compromised. Application providers must ensure adequate data security when operating with mobile devices owned by the patients themselves. To counter the concern, eClinical developers worldwide stick to the opinion that the data is just as secure, if not more so, when sent from the patient’s own device. A personal device is less likely to leave the user's side, unlike an additional device or a bundle of paper reviews, that may become an afterthought. But there's no denying that increasing the use of personal and third party devices in healthcare highlights a need for the implementation of more specific BYOD policies and information security technology.

Data loss. One more risk, that occurs for several reasons: when a mobile device gets lost or stolen, it is subject to upgrades mid-study, data plan restrictions, turning off in-app diary reminders, etc. To address this challenge, a judicious step for researchers would be to ensure that patients without a proper device (or unwilling to use their own device), or those changing to a device that is unsuitable mid-way through a study, can continue to collect their data. The quick replacement is important to reduce missing data — as it is when replacing a lost or damaged provisioned device supplied to a patient in a non-BYOD study. Also, in the event of theft or loss mentioned above, a mobile device management (MDM) policy, for example, can include remote wipe capability, which could come in handy should a device get lost or stolen. 

False-consensus effect. In its overview CenterWatch commented on the general excitement toward the trend. But it also cautions pharma to be realistic and take into account whether patients are ready for BYOD. There is a term in psychology called “false-consensus effect”, when people are inclined to overestimate their beliefs, values, opinions and preferences. This phenomenon also occurs in eCOA.  While this concern might be more challenging for developers and industry participants to approach, there is no denial that BYOD models have great potential for increasing patient satisfaction and improving their experience and compliance, as subjects tend to prefer using their own devices when submitting trial data.

Future looking bright for BYOD

As the industry is keen on moving towards cost-efficient and patient-centric clinical trials, eClinical solutions which maximize the subject’s experience through features like BYOD continue to look more appealing and valuable for sponsors. Flexible solutions and options for patient-driven data streams will always be in demand. BYOD for eCOA is an excellent option for certain studies that reduces time and costs, manage deliveries, and increases patient involvement and willingness to participate in a study. In addition, using their own devices means that patients do not need much time to be trained to use it during a trial. 

Breakthrough as it is, the topic of BYOD still raises many questions among market participants. To that end, a consultation with a reliable provider of such solutions should be the first step for sponsors looking into upgrading their study processes. Data MATRIX company, a leading eClinical provider in the Eastern European and pioneer in the Russian market, is always ready to provide valuable insights on a wide range of eClinical topics. Having announced the release of its new generation ePRO with both BYOD and non-BYOD approaches in February 2019, the Data MATRIX team has successfully introduced ePRO into several new projects. Sponsors already report positive feedback such as reduced costs and increased patient involvement. 

Do not hesitate to send an e-mail to, so that the team members can run a free demo of the new breed of eClinical trials solutions for you.

24 June 2019

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