Improving clinical trials through patient experience

Stitch Health is a London-based start-up, on a mission to improve clinical trials by measuring and surfacing each patient’s experience. DDW’s Megan Thomas caught up with Jonathan Moshinsky, Co-Founder and CEO. 

MT: Near the end of 2022, Stitch closed £2.5 million seed funding to create the definitive patient retention platform for clinical trials. What causes issues with patient retention and how can scientists running trials prevent this from happening?  

JM: The industry doesn’t have a clear view today on the extent of the problem with patient retention – the best estimates point to approximately 30% of patients dropping out. Often, patients will be going through a lot of stress whilst participating in a trial and may be quite unwell too. We want to reduce patient burden, so our core belief is that trials should be designed with patients at their heart. 

Some patient withdrawals are unavoidable due to factors like disease progression or side effects. But what about the estimated 40% that are avoidable? Stitch can help clinical trial professionals understand what causes patients to be unhappy with their trial experience, and what actions they can take to improve it. This data will help the industry design better trials, with patient experience and needs at the forefront.

MT: What other aspects of clinical trials do you feel could be improved upon? 

JM: The clinical trial industry has been slow to adopt approaches taken for granted in the consumer world. The fast pace of innovation in sectors such as banking, travel, and even food delivery has set high patient expectations for service and communication. 

This is increasing the pressure on research site staff, however there is a lack of consumer grade software available to support them. This has led to an enormous increase in the proportion of patients having trial experiences that “fall well short of their expectations”. 

In order to improve retention, clinical trials need better software for both patients and sites. That’s why at Stitch, we’re working directly with both groups to make this a reality. 

MT: Can you tell me more about your collaboration with Cancer Research UK?

JM: Cancer Research UK recognised that there was an opportunity to bring consumer best practice to clinical trials. They have partnered with us to deeply understand and improve patient experience on their trials by helping patients manage their trial journey and capturing their feedback. This will help them optimise their clinical trial design and get more new therapeutics to the people who need them. 

As part of the collaboration, Cancer Research UK and Stitch have worked directly with people affected by cancer to co-create the best possible experience for patients. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with patients describing Stitch as ‘all the things I never had’, and ‘invaluable’. User research was also undertaken with research nurses at members of the Experimental Cancer Medicines Centres network to get the perspectives of those working in research. 

MT: What opportunities are currently untapped when it comes to clinical trials? 

JM: I believe that the largest untapped opportunity in clinical trials is a deep understanding of the patient’s satisfaction on trial. This is a dataset that is not being fully harnessed, and we believe this will drive the next step-change in the improvement of clinical trial operations. 

If we truly understood the patient experience on trials, and in real-time, then we could use insight to answer questions like: is anyone at risk of dropping out of the trial? And if so, why? Which sites offer the best patient experience? 

Clinical trial sponsors that understand the patient experience to this level will run faster trials, with better retention, at a lower cost 

MT: What do you think the future holds for clinical trials? 

JM: Putting people first is critical. True patient-centricity means treating patients as partners, not just as participants. Valuing patients as partners should mean that study results are shared. This has been shown to encourage long term engagement including increasing participation rates for future studies. With good experiences, word will spread and drive future patient recruitment. 

Technology must improve to facilitate remote, hybrid and decentralised trials, and provide a more personalised trial journey for all participants – both patients and sites. The journey to personalisation starts with understanding each patient’s preferences. 

Biography

Jonathan Moshinsky is CEO and Co-Founder at Stitch Health, building the industry’s first patient retention platform to improve the experience of patients on trials. He has 15 years experience in life sciences technology, previously holding senior roles at Veeva, uMotif and IBM.

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