A colorful mosaic of diverse faces.

Two straightforward ways to improve DE&I in clinical trials

By Yashoda Sharma, Michelle Higginson, and Reginald Swift, Life Science Leader

Clinical trials are foundational to advancing healthcare through the discovery and application of new knowledge. However, opportunities to benefit from these advancements have been limited for many groups. Centuries-old systemic racist practices and policies have fueled health disparities and made diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) challenges widespread and multifactorial.

There are over 434,000 clinical trials registered with Clinicaltrials.gov. However, data from the FDA indicate that 75% of trial participants in 2020 identified as white, while only 11% identified as Hispanic, 8% identified as Black or African American, and 6% identified as Asian. This issue of having little racial diversity in clinical trials is further compounded by the fact that 20% of all drugs have a variation in responses across ethnic groups. The most widely known example of this is the popular asthma drug albuterol, which does not work as well for children of African American and Puerto Rican ancestry. Despite the disproportionate prevalence of asthma in these populations, very few trials have been conducted with African American and Hispanic populations.

The pandemic hastened the involvement of digital health technologies (DHTs) and the adoption of decentralized clinical trials (DCTs), which are helping to meet participants “where they are” with tools like eConsent, virtual visits, online assessments, and remote patient monitoring. DHTs are becoming part of the entire clinical trial life cycle, from recruitment and retention to health data collection and data analytics. DHTs also present opportunities to impact the diversity, equity, and inclusion of clinical trials by increasing access, improving patient engagement and retention, and reducing logistical and operational burdens for patients and clinical teams. The prevailing thought is that such advancements will lead to better outcomes through the collection and analyses of more robust data sets.

While this progress is meaningful, a significant challenge still exists with securing patients’ trust of the clinical trial system. For DHTs to be most impactful, we need to build trust within underserved communities. One way to do this is by increasing the representation of these communities. Here, we share two digital solutions that can build trust by increasing representation. Read more …