I have written recently about the ascendency of “Patient Centricity” as this year’s top buzzword in the clinical trials industry. There is no doubt that it – and its companions, “patient engagement” and “patient voice” – have burst onto the scene heavily this year, supplanting our previous breathless excitement for Big Data and mHealth. So it seems fair to ask: is patient centricity a fad, or a real change in how we approach clinical trials? And if it’s a fad, does that matter?
So what do these large organizations do when confronted with a new fad? They can certainly attempt to ignore it, and hope that it goes away. But many times, the reaction is to acknowledge and support the trend in as symbolic and superficial a manner as possible. This enables the organization to appear to be adaptive and innovative without actually risking anything. (For a recent example, check out the Twitter feed from any big pharma company.) Real, structural change might bring a reward, but it also very clearly runs risks – rules may be broken, existing customers and stakeholders may be angered.
And that is quite likely the biggest barrier to advocates of patient-centered clinical trials today: not that they will be resisted, but that their message will be co-opted and their efforts shunted into high-visibility but low-impact initiatives. This enables the institutional gears to continue grinding in the same way, without the need for risky and unpleasant change.