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The healthcare community agrees we must continue encouraging digital transformation throughout the health value chain, including early-stage clinical research. Biocat, in its commitment to accelerating technology adoption, hosted a science session to discuss strategies for implementing digital technology in clinical trials, taking into account any challenges and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The activity was part of the 4th Summit for Clinical Trials Operations Executives Europe (SCOPE Europe), held April 20-21 in the Catalan capital, after having been canceled due to the pandemic. Biocat Director of Science Policy and Internationalization Montserrat Daban, moderated a panel discussion featuring Montserrat Barceló, Veristat Europa;  Xavier Cañas, Vall d’Hebron University Hospital;  Alessandro Monterosso, Alira Health and Oriol Penon, Asphalion. 

Digital clinical trials are more innovative studies that use digital tools and new statistical methods to speed up drug development. Despite their advantages, however, they also pose some challenges. “Implementing and regulating the digital tools patients use are some of the main challenges we have to tackle in implementing digitalization in this field,” explained Alessandro Monterosso, who expects these challenges will be overcome in the next four to five years. Apart from that, Oriol Penon added that, in his mind, public-private partnership “is becoming one of the critical paths to advancing digitalization in clinical research.”  

Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic has sped up digitalization. The fact that it was impossible to get to hospitals in the most critical weeks of the coronavirus pandemic meant that clinical drug trials underway at Catalan hospitals had to adapt to the new situation by adopting digitalization measures. 

Xavier Cañas explained that the outbreak of COVID-19 made it possible to implement processes like remote trial monitoring and delivering drugs to participants home, as well as speeding up the process to launch new studies. “We went from it taking three or four months to start a study to just three or four days,” he remembers. 

Catalonia: priority destination for clinical trials from all over the world

It’s no coincidence that a global benchmark in scientific conferences like the SCOPE Europe summit was held in Barcelona. Catalonia is a leader in clinical trials in Europe, above all in oncology and with a noteworthy number of participation in COVID-19 trials. A top-notch healthcare system, with first-rate hospitals and world-renowned healthcare professionals, is the main asset that draws clinical trials from all over the world to the BioRegion.  

But that’s not all. Montserrat Barceló defended the great potential of the digital ecosystem in the healthcare sector in Catalonia. “World-renowned congresses like Mobile World Congress Barcelona, and specifically 4YFN, make Barcelona one of the top digital health hubs in the world,” she noted. More than 60 health companies and organizations from the BioRegion took part in the latest edition of this digital entrepreneurship event.

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