The cure for scurvy and the COVID-19 vaccine are just a couple of momentous discoveries that came out of clinical trials. It goes without saying that clinical research is imperative to innovating healthcare and helping patients lead healthier lives, but the challenges are steep.
It’s estimated that 10 percent of Americans are asked to participate in clinical trials but less than half of them agree. Unsurprisingly, where people live is one of the biggest barriers, which can limit the opportunities for diversity in clinical trials. Patients may not have the time, transportation, or paid time off they need to travel to wherever the clinical trial is held.
But what if we brought clinical trials directly to patients through their primary care physician? Healthcare should be local, after all.
Furthermore, clinical research presents fantastic opportunities for physicians:
1. Access new (and possibly better) care options for your patients.
Participating in clinical trials can give your patients access to free or low-cost experimental medications that may improve their health outcomes. It also extends your ability to provide high-quality care to patients.
2. Increase your revenue potential.
Clinical research opens up more opportunities for you to see patients, which can help boost revenue potential and create new revenue streams. This can be especially beneficial if you’ve just started working as an independent physician.
3. Contribute to groundbreaking research.
Physicians who participate in clinical trials may have the opportunity to be published in major research journals. Our own physicians were published in the New England Journal of Medicine for their research on pediatric COVID-19 vaccines and, in a separate study, for an experimental antiviral medication to slow the progression of COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients.
However, while clinical research can be rewarding, it presents other challenges for independent physicians. The additional administrative burdens compounded with the day-to-day operations of running an independent practice may lead to burnout. In fact, 56 percent of independent physicians report experiencing frequent feelings of burnout — even without participating in clinical research. However, partnering with a physician enablement organization can support a physician’s participation in clinical research.
Building Upon Local Care
The physician enablement model allows physicians to retain their autonomy over their practices by helping to reduce administrative burdens while simultaneously helping to expand their revenue potential.
Some physician enablement organizations, like Privia Health, partner with integrated research organizations and contract research organizations. They support physician investigators and clinical trial participants by providing IT support, an electronic health record, data analytics, telehealth, and other resources. In other words, we’re integrating clinical research at the point-of-care to increase accessibility and facilitate a better patient experience.
Another way Privia makes clinical trials more convenient for patients is with research hubs. Our physicians can be principal investigators, or physicians who are responsible for overseeing a clinical trial. In this model, our physicians centralize their research at a location, or “hub,” that is local to the patient base and travel to it as needed. This makes the trials far easier to access than having patients drive out to a university.
Taking the “Search” Out of Research
Clinical research is fragmented — if only there was a way to connect physicians to the right clinical research programs.
In fact, there is! Some physician enablement models use a shared technology platform that connects physicians to a greater ecosystem of clinical research opportunities.
When we pair our shared electronic health record with clinical decision support, physicians across Privia can be notified when their patient is eligible for a local clinical trial. This gives providers the opportunity to talk to their patients about clinical research as a care option during routine visits, and refer patients to clinical trials they may benefit from.
The physician enablement organization has already done the bulk of this work. Along the same line, having a shared network of like-minded providers promotes a culture of delivering high-quality patient care. Thus, the model reduces administrative burdens while encouraging collaboration among like-minded physicians.
By making clinical research more accessible to physicians and their patients, we can truly “unlock” all of the benefits. Accessibility can help increase the diversity of our patient population, which may lead to new treatments that can create healthier communities. Getting primary care physicians involved in clinical research promotes collaboration and trust within the medical community. With the right tools, resources, and partner, clinical research can help foster a better understanding of medicine at the local level.