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Taking Stock With Neal Pope about the Future of Decentralised Clinical Trials

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We launched Horreum, our medical distribution centres based in the US and Europe, at the beginning of 2021 in the most disruptive landscape of our times. 

COVID-19 forced the hand of clinical trial design. For trial continuity, the industry had to change, and with it our whole business shifted. Decentralised clinical trials became the focus, with patients finally at the forefront, guiding the clinical journey at every touch point. 

Horreum has been integral to the development of our mobilehealth services, allowing us to get quality medical equipment to our team of global nurses so they can carry out important trial visits offsite, often in patient’s own homes.

This has been a game changer for sponsors and their patients. It has allowed us to continue to support studies not just for COVID-19, but for many rare diseases that are relying on clinical research for breakthrough medicines. 

We caught up with Neal Pope, our warehouse manager, whose team has been responsible for getting medical supplies where they need to be on time, allowing our nurses to deliver remarkable experiences for patients taking part in decentralised clinical trials. 

Hi Neal. Firstly, tell us about your role and how you supported the launch of Horreum in such a short space of time. 

My job is to manage the Durham horreum facility, and help provide logistics support to our field clinical managers and local health. We set up the medical distribution centre in 2020 before the Christmas break and fully launched in January, just a few weeks later. We were very excited to get that in place.

We had to make sure we had adequate equipment, stock and staffing to open up the facility. It also involved working with our vendors to source shelving, desks and office furniture. The focus had to be on absolute quality. We take our responsibility to patients very seriously. 

Part of my role is to develop operational efficiency, GDP compliance, good clinical and distribution practices. 

We’ve had to develop our job descriptions and our processes, as we’re setting up from scratch. We developed all of those and demonstrated that they work. And now we can take what we’ve created here in Durham to other horreum locations.

I’m proud of what we’ve done in a short amount of time.  

What are you most passionate about in your role at Horreum?

Throughout my distribution & logistics career, I’ve been passionate about providing a quality, reliable service to those who need it most. This means getting the right product to the right place at the right time

This has developed into a passion for enabling a remarkable patient experience. 

The North America distribution centre has been a huge success. What’s the next project?

Our goal is to continue to grow the business and build on existing business relationships. When new contracts are created, it results in more opportunities for the teams in the distribution centres to support our clients and support our patients across the globe. 

The next big project for me is to set up and launch our next location and operation in Amsterdam, hopefully in November or December of this year. Amsterdam is a great opportunity, as its location will allow us to service the EU more effectively. 

We’re supporting trials in many countries around the world already, where we have inventory and stock available that we can distribute out. We’re hoping that in the  1st quarter of 2022, we might have the opportunity of a small horreum location in Singapore, which could serve our APAC and Oceania regions of the world. 

We have studies launching right now in Australia, New Zealand and the EU. It’s exciting that we are across the globe, making patients’ lives better and supporting the development of life changing discoveries.

What has been your biggest achievement at mdgroup?

It was rewarding to get the Durham Horreum up and running in North Carolina. 

When I came on board in November of last year, our goal was to get our distribution centre ready by the end of the year. We made that target within the thirty-day window. 

We started distributing products the week after Christmas, so I’m proud of what we were able to do in a short amount of time. Within those first 30 days, I was learning about mdgroup as a company, a new employer, and the culture of the people. I was taking my experience in distribution and logistics, and applying it here. 

I’m very proud of what we do.

How do dedicated distribution centres, like Horreum, benefit mobilehealth and decentralised clinical trials?

Our Horreum locations serve clients across the globe and enable us to offer clients an efficient, cost-saving alternative. 

They help us provide clients with a reliable service. We use an express delivery service so we can get products to our HCPs overnight, or with two or three-day delivery, depending on their location in the US. 

Every company is looking for cost-saving alternatives that can get their product out at an economical price to their clients. We can do that for them, and provide a remarkable patient experience. 

How do patients benefit from that supply chain, and the reliability of distribution?

We have to be prepared for the launch of any study so that we can send the product out with very little notice. The same day we receive an order, it’s going out the door with our transportation carrier. 

It takes true teamwork across our supply chain, with procurement, our account directors and project managers to ensure that we have what we need.

If healthcare professionals can rely on us and our transportation carriers to complete that visit, they can get those samples sent to labs across the globe, which produces feedback and documentation to our clients.

What do you love about working at mdgroup?

It’s the people and the patients. 

The mdgroup team welcomed me with open arms. I’ve enjoyed my short time here and have developed close relationships around the world. I get exposed to other cultures, other people, and other departments. 

The people within this company have been great to work with, and everybody contributes. You might say we’re on the frontlines in the trenches, making sure that we have products that move from A to B. 

And then the patients, too. We are here to provide that remarkable patient experience. To improve patient retention in clinical trials, individuals have to feel comfortable. Providing quality healthcare equipment is an important factor in achieving this. 

When HCPs conduct a home visit, they can professionally perform the tests with the equipment they need to complete the study. In some cases, patients look forward to their next visit, because we’re seeing those patients regularly throughout the trial, so HCPs create relationships with that participant. Our HCPs represent mdgroup. 

I love what we’re doing here, from Horreum distribution centres to helping healthcare professionals and patients get the most out of home visits.

Discover how our mission to combine personalised patient care with digital technology to create remarkable patient experiences could boost the success of your clinical trial. Get in touch today