Learning from COVID-19 related trial adaptations to inform efficient trial design—a sequential mixed methods study

Robin Chatters*, Cindy L. Cooper, Alicia O’Cathain, Caroline Murphy, Athene Lane, Katie Sutherland, Christopher Burton, Angela Cape, Louis Tunnicliffe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Many clinical trial procedures were often undertaken in-person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in adaptations to these procedures to enable trials to continue. The aim of this study was to understand whether the adaptations made to clinical trials by UK Clinical Trials Units (CTUs) during the pandemic have the potential to improve the efficiency of trials post-pandemic. Methods: This was a mixed methods study, initially involving an online survey administered to all registered UK CTUs to identify studies that had made adaptations due to the pandemic. Representatives from selected studies were qualitatively interviewed to explore the adaptations made and their potential to improve the efficiency of future trials. A literature review was undertaken to locate published evidence concerning the investigated adaptations. The findings from the interviews were reviewed by a group of CTU and patient representatives within a workshop, where discussions focused on the potential of the adaptations to improve the efficiency of future trials. Results: Forty studies were identified by the survey. Fourteen studies were selected and fifteen CTU staff were interviewed about the adaptations. The workshop included 15 CTU and 3 patient representatives. Adaptations were not seen as leading to direct efficiency savings for CTUs. However, three adaptations may have the potential to directly improve efficiencies for trial sites and participants beyond the pandemic: a split remote-first eligibility assessment, recruitment outside the NHS via a charity, and remote consent. There was a lack of published evidence to support the former two adaptations, however, remote consent is widely supported in the literature. Other identified adaptations may benefit by improving flexibility for the participant. Barriers to using these adaptations include the impact on scientific validity, limitations in the role of the CTU, and participant’s access to technology. Conclusions: Three adaptations (a split remote-first eligibility assessment, recruitment outside the NHS via a charity, and remote consent) have the potential to improve clinical trials but only one (remote consent) is supported by evidence. These adaptations could be tested in future co-ordinated ‘studies within a trial’ (SWAT).

Original languageEnglish
Article number128
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Volume22
Issue number1
Early online date29 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Clinical trials
  • Consent
  • COVID-19
  • Efficient trial design
  • Follow-up
  • Intervention delivery
  • Recruitment
  • Trial methodology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Learning from COVID-19 related trial adaptations to inform efficient trial design—a sequential mixed methods study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this