For our inaugural “Transparency” post, our CEO Carla Balch sat down to outline her vision for Inteliquet and what she wants for patients and clinicians.
Carla has worked with hundreds of cancer patients, sat across from them, and helped to identify them for trials. She has seen first-hand the challenges with clinical trial recruitment and the need for a better approach.
What led you to healthcare?
After caring for grandparents who had Alzheimer’s disease, I returned to school so I could better understand what happened to them. My master’s in clinical psychology required an internship in oncology that placed me at the West Cancer Center in Memphis. I ran support groups for metastatic cancer patients and stayed in oncology. I fell in love with these patients who had their priorities in order, and were generous and kind. But I still hate Alzheimer’s as much as I hate cancer.
Why did you join Inteliquet?
When I was at the healthcare technology company NantCare, I was involved in the Cancer Moonshot 2020 initiative and vetted solutions that could identify patients for extremely intricate trials. Inteliquet was the only one that could handle such complexity. Plus, there was a high level of passion and commitment to cancer patients and researchers, and I wanted to be a part of that.
How is Inteliquet different from other companies?
The healthcare world is very time-sensitive; every day a patient isn’t offered a clinical trial is a potentially dangerous day. Our vision is to significantly reduce the barriers and time involved in finding the right patients for the right clinical trials. We need to change the clinical-trial landscape for everyone.
What does that mean?
Many hospitals and academic medical centers screen patients by manually searching EMR records. It takes research coordinators 45 to 60 minutes to review exclusion/inclusion criteria for one patient. For every ten patients reviewed, eight will not be appropriate, but they must review those eight to find the two that are. Remember that oncologists see an average of 40 patients a day.
Our technology automatically filters out the eight that are not right for a specific trial, so coordinators can concentrate on those two patients. We do this by automating the search workflow, which shortens the road and the time to connect patients and researchers. This is what our technology and services do.
Clinical trials are becoming incredibly sophisticated in terms of patient selection criteria. It isn’t reasonable to expect to identify these patients without equally sophisticated queries against a robust, descriptive data set. We automate that broad search based on inclusion/exclusion criteria, so you focus on the patients that are the best possible matches. This is how we “light up” the right patients for the right trials. There is an immediate benefit at clinical sites when they use our technology and services to find the right patients for trials. We also know our technology helps sponsors and CROs evolve the process of selecting clinical sites by focusing on patients first.
Sponsors go back to clinicians they worked with in the past for new trials, but those clinicians may not have access to the patient populations for a new trial. Sponsors must find where the patients live, where they are diagnosed, and then find sites in areas convenient for those patients. We can help find where patients are even before they open a clinical site. This puts patients first and at the center of the trial. It is a win for everyone—patients, providers, and sponsors.
How important is it to fix clinical trial recruitment as it relates to the healthcare system at large?
The way we discover new medical knowledge—the next blockbuster drug or a new treatment—is through clinical trials. It’s critical to improve the process. When the cancer patient is not responding to one treatment, the oncologist will immediately switch them to another option, many times without realizing there is a clinical trial for the patient. The interval between therapies is a critical junction for a discussion about trials. If the patient moves to the second line of therapy, it could preclude them from a future trial.
Inteliquet’s technology and services help alleviate the need for a “pause” during this transition. We help physicians see if they can offer a trial to a patient and discuss it with them, which can shorten the time involved in getting them enrolled, or if nothing else, lead to a thoughtful discussion about whether a trial is a viable course of treatment. We reduce the challenge of finding the patients for the right trials when we let technology identify matching patients and predict when patients will become available. This simplification allows clinical staff to focus on enrolling patients through knowledge-based medicine.
Can you elaborate on that idea?
Physicians and drug developers need real data to make decisions. That real data can be in a couple of formats: raw deidentified data to allow for their own analysis and decision-making or, better yet, the intelligence and insights that come from the high-quality deidentified data consortium we use, which contains nearly one million anonymized patient records. Regardless of the format, the goal is to get the best data with which to see options—because life really does depend on it.
What do you want patients to know?
A lot of patients are under the false impression that clinical trials are just “getting a placebo.” They are not. They receive treatment that is the proper standard of care. In a trial, the goal is to see if the new drug is better than the standard of care. When patients are part of a trial, they see how it turns “up the volume” on their care through additional monitoring, scans, and patient surveys. They get more clinical attention.
A 2016 survey found that 93 percent of 1,700 respondents who signed up for a clinical trial said they would sign up again because they were satisfied with the experience and would participate in future trials. I encourage all patients to actively ask about clinical trials and see it as a potential part of their care plan. Be your own best advocate and identify yourself as willing to consider a trial.
What do you want clinicians to know?
We can help them better integrate clinical trials as part of treatment options offered to patients. If they start discussing clinical trials up front—just as financial counseling is discussed—patients see it as part of their care. If their first line of therapy fails, they can have meaningful conversations about trials as a normal course of their treatment. That is not the case today.
Does that keep you up at night?
Yes. The fact that patients are being missed for clinical trials because oncologists are drowning in data while looking for the right information keeps me up at night. There are patients sitting in waiting rooms right now. I’ve seen them. The patients are right there on Main Street, USA, in waiting rooms or sitting on exam tables. We must improve the clarity around finding these patients trials.
Clarity and transparency are vital themes for Inteliquet, aren’t they?
Absolutely. We crave clarity and transparency. It is the goal for all of our stakeholders. Clear data provides the right insight for sponsors, CROs, clinical sites—all who are working to give patients as many options—and as much hope—as possible.
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