The evolution of technology; being usable as well as functional
I recently wrote about changes in monitoring and for the industry to be ready to support the role of a CRA evolving as technology continues to be central to everything we do. Not so long after that, the PHARMASEAL team began to talk about how our industry has and continues to evolve specifically in relation to CTMS.
That made me think about similarities in our everyday lives; and how technological advancements are great provided that they don’t just repeat what we have now just slightly differently. Technological evolutions should truly evolve our ability to achieve our outcomes in a more efficient and meaningful way.
I thought about music and the similarities of devices/objects that carry music. Of course I can start with vinyl but that still has a market today so I’ve kind’ve left that out of this thought process. So I start with tapes (that’s as far as my mind can cast back) of various sizes, and then CDs. Funny, I still remember the days of begging my parents for a walkman to play CDs on! Anyway. Then there was the mini-disc; thought to be the ‘CD killer’ with its compact design but it was quickly out-of-date because storing mp3s on much smaller devices that could carry greater volumes of data quickly flooded the market. That has then led us to today where we just stream through cloud based services like Spotify.
As I look through those evolutions, I see some stark similarities to the evolution of clinical trial management whereby we’ve gone from paper, to spreadsheets, to on-premise systems (spreadsheets on a server as I like to think of them), to hosted systems (the negative view being spreadsheets in a ‘system’ wrapper that someone will host for you) and now to a world of true SaaS solutions that are trying to change the way we manage clinical trials. For the better might I add!
The similarity is in the middle whereby software applications were supposed to do what the mini-disc was supposed to - kill the legacy of spreadsheets. And they did to an extent. They did catch the market, people did use them and they have been incumbent in many companies for quite a while. But did they really meet the real outcome or did they merely just take existing functionality and just host it slightly differently?
I would argue that in that middle period, as a technology industry we didn’t do enough. We didn’t innovate, we just simply took spreadsheets, wrapped them to make them feel like a system and just took the old world and hosted it for someone. A spreadsheet on my computer is no different to one hosted on a server accessed through a web browser. In the same way the mini-disc wasn’t much different than a CD in what it gave you as an outcome; i.e. you got a certain amount of music to carry around with you - just the hosting of the music was different. It did not truly evolve music storage or the ability to take music on the go with you just like hosted CTMS systems didn’t really evolve clinical trial management.
That leads me to the point of all this. That evolution is not just about doing the same thing but just hosting if differently. It is about truly understanding what people are trying to achieve and building the right solutions to meet those goals. Like streaming music - it’s about having the choice, the variety wherever I am and whenever I want. The same goes for CTMS which is about knowledge, and integrating data from disparate sources and having the ability to make proactive and informed decisions. This is what we at PHARMASEAL are trying to do.
We know as a CTMS customer you need functionality to do Trial Management, Monitoring, Payments and Issue Management but we also know that the different users have different outcomes. That is why we are so focused on stepping back from being just functional to give equal (if not more) time and focus on being usable to our end users to achieve the goals and outcomes they need. The same functionality just delivered in a way that lets you work smarter, more efficiently and in a more focused manner. If our users get good usability from the functionality they use then their trials can be more accurate and ultimately that in turn will hopefully positively impact patients.
Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and how we interact with it in our everyday lives is as well. Why shouldn’t clinical trial systems evolve in that way too?