“We’re all passionate about the patients and remembering, they are why we’re here. We’re a service provider in the clinical trial industry that focuses on giving them the best possible patient experience.”
With over 27 years in the industry, Caroline Jackson brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the clinical development process to her role as Executive Vice President, Patient Services here at mdgroup.
Caroline is passionate about the future of clinical research, and the use of new technologies and other decentralised solutions to facilitate better patient care. Now several months into her role, Caroline shares her insights into the evolving industry and how mdgroup are leading the charge.
What is your role and key responsibilities at mdgroup?
I head up our Patient Services Department, consisting of project management, clinical operations, site engagement, medical and our Seacole division. I’m responsible for looking at the services we’re providing, and ensuring we’ve got the processes and systems to deliver for our clients, sites and patients in the most effective and compliant way. I also make sure our teams have the tools and the systems they need to be able to do their job, and to manage projects to the best of their ability.
Above all else, we’re a Patient Services Division. That’s our goal: to serve those patients, and give them the best possible experience while they’re taking part in clinical trials so they remain on the study and continue to receive the care and treatment that they need.
During COVID, I was tasked with putting together a strategy for managing decentralised trials, so data could be collected and patient safety assessed in the patient’s own home. I really found it fascinating. There are a lot of companies out there that talk about patient centricity and making trials more accessible, but don’t prioritise patients. mdgroup is one of those few companies who really do everything based around the patient.
How has the way your team works changed in the past year?
The services we offer were most commonly used on rare disease studies, or when patients had to travel long distances to take part in trials.
COVID threw these services into a more widespread and diverse trial population when sites were closed or patients were reluctant or unable to travel. Now they’re used on trials where people wouldn’t wouldn’t normally have considered things like mobile health or patient travel, they would have just let things run in a traditional way.
What were the biggest challenges?
The team were challenged to think outside of the box and find ways to keep patients motivated, engaged and continuing with their study. When hospitals were closed or when patients couldn’t or were reluctant to travel, it became a priority, and mdgroup was in the right place at the right time to go the extra mile and support with that.
So, the team has focused on giving patients options, and helping them continue in trials they might not have been able to access without our services. We’ve been able to maintain that and, and support the patients to get the treatment they need.
What’s the mdgroup difference?
It’s that personal service. We don’t treat patients as numbers.
It’s very easy in a large CRO to look at the data and forget the patient and their networks behind it. Patients are more relaxed when they know everything and everyone is being taken care of. That’s where we excel, we look not just at the needs of the patient, but of family and carers too. It is really a whole patient experience service.
Where mdgroup really adds value is in our ability to increase accessibility of trials to patients and to give the patient choices in how they participate in clinical trials. By taking the patient to the trial (travel services) or the trial to the patient (mobile health services), we can increase the diversity of patients participating in clinical trials and provide options for how they will be evaluated and treated during the trial. This empowers the patients and increases the probability of them remaining on the study for the full duration.
What are you most passionate about in your field?
What frustrates me most about the industry is that technology and services that are being used regularly in everyday life, aren’t readily adopted into clinical trials. But in the last year, people have had no choice but to take that plunge and use technology and services to ensure continuity of clinical trials.
What I’ve really enjoyed in the last year is implementing and supporting those changes to take effect within the industry; seeing the industry finally embrace technology and services that have been around for so long, that actually help patients. Now sponsors are paying attention to the best way to conduct studies, meet their end points, and better the patient experience.
How is mdgroup’s technological development supporting you to deliver remarkable patient experiences?
The Primarius system is an evolving technology within the company, which supports everybody involved in the trial. We have internal processes that are becoming more automated with each update, but also ensure the patient and site experience is as enjoyable as possible. We make sure our systems are easy to use, and give patients the opportunity to ask questions, and submit receipts or requests.
We don’t just rely on the Primarius system, either. There will always be an option for the patient to phone and speak to the people managing their patient journey within mdgroup. It’s an exciting development that constantly evolves, to benefit everybody that’s involved with the trial process.
Excellent! And what are you most excited about with the new developments that mdgroup are bringing to market?
I think being part of the industry transition from site-based trials to decentralised or virtual trials, is something a lot of people want to be involved with.
mdgroup is already there, ahead of the curve. The services we provide are unique, as we can facilitate decentralised services by sending the nurses, or other healthcare providers, to the patient’s homes. But where a visit can’t take place in the patient’s home, we can cater for their travel and expenses too.
Here at mdgroup, we really do focus on getting the trial to the patient or the patient to the trial. We’re in a position where we can offer patients both of those options. Many of our competitors choose one route or the other. Whereas we really are thinking about the patient and giving them options to make trials accessible to everyone.
What more is mdgroup doing to support the future of clinical research?
We have our own internal agency now, Seacole Health. So we will have that one group within our team who will source all our healthcare providers, for our clinical trials; so it’s a one stop shop. At the moment we have to use suppliers for some of our resourcing needs, but in the future, all our mobile resourcing needs will be managed through our own internal agency Seacole Health
We now have a Medical Director on board, so we can offer more in-depth consultancy and protocol development services, as well as feasibility reviews. This allows us to really help clients to develop their clinical development programme around the patient.
We love it when clients send us a draft protocol and ask us to make recommendations for how the study can be safely and effectively conducted within the home, without impacting the study data and endpoints.
Being involved with the client as early as possible in the protocol design is exactly what we want, so we can tailor the visit requirements to meet the needs of the study whilst addressing some of the challenges patients experience when participating in trials.
What makes mdgroup a great place to work?
I think it’s the energy. People want to do a fantastic job here, and they do. And the service we provide to the patients is second to none. Some of the testimonials I’ve read from patients and their carers about their experience with mdgroup through the clinical trial process are so moving. It makes you realise how much of an impact we have on people’s lives.
It is very special to hear how we have helped patients to get the treatment that they so desperately need, whilst making the process as positive as possible for them and their caregivers. There’s a lot of people here who can be very proud of the work they do and the impact they make on a daily basis.
We’re all passionate about the patients and remembering, they are why we’re here. We are a service provider in the clinical trial industry, supported by unique technology, that focuses on giving patients the best possible experience while participating in clinical trials.
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.