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Bridging the Gap: How technology can tackle inequality in clinical trials

By Gaurica Chacko, Vice President and Global Life Sciences Head at Wipro

Clinical trials are the bedrock of medical progress, yet a stark reality casts a shadow over their potential: they often fail to represent the very people they aim to help. This lack of diversity, particularly impacting women and non-white populations, has dire consequences for healthcare equality.
And while women constitute nearly half of the global population, they represent a paltry 41% of participants in early-stage clinical trials. This disparity is further exacerbated for women of colour, leaving their health outcomes vulnerable to inadequate research and treatment guidelines.

The good news is that healthcare organisations and research institutes in the UK are taking steps to address clinical trial inequality through technology and data-driven initiatives. But while progress is being made, there is still a significant need for legislative action and continued innovation to improve the overall health of society, rather than just benefiting a select few.

A step in the right direction

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) in the UK reveals a concerning trend: regions grappling with the highest disease burden see the lowest participation in research. This points to a complex web of social, economic, and geographical factors – the ” broader determinants of health” – that perpetuate health inequalities.

The pandemic brought these disparities into sharp focus, prompting initiatives like the NHS Long Term Plan and Core20PLUS55. These UK-based programmes aim to tackle health inequalities at both national and systemic levels, marking progress within Britain. While global legislative action remains crucial for widespread change, technologies offer a powerful avenue for healthcare professionals to proactively diversify research and trials at
present, leading to more accurate diagnoses and improved health outcomes for all. By embracing these advancements, we can begin to bridge the diversity gap and pave the way for a more equitable healthcare landscape.

How technology can level the playing field

The clinical trial space is undergoing a radical transformation thanks to the rise of digital healthcare technologies. These innovative tools, ranging from wearable tech to sophisticated cloud platforms, are dismantling traditional barriers and paving the way for more inclusive research.

One of the most exciting developments is the ability to recruit participants from diverse backgrounds and locations. No longer limited by geography, researchers can now reach wider populations, ensuring clinical trials better reflect the global community they aim to serve. Imagine interactive VR kiosks nestled within local pharmacies, transforming these spaces into hubs for clinical trial information and access. This is just one example of how
technology is bridging the gap in participation and raising awareness. Furthermore, the power of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising how we analyse and understand health data. AI can sift through massive datasets, identifying patterns and insights that would be impossible for humans to process alone. This capability allows healthcare professionals to make more informed decisions, tailoring treatments to the unique

General Use needs of diverse patient groups. AI can even break down language barriers, providing translation services for those whose native language isn’t English. Coupled with evolving legislation, the use of AI to design more inclusive trials and analyse health data has the potential to truly democratise healthcare. By ensuring representation and equity in medical research, we can move towards a future where everyone benefits from
cutting-edge treatments and therapies.

A brighter horizon for equal healthcare

The lack of female representation in clinical trials is a multifaceted problem demanding a united front. Lawmakers, researchers, and the healthcare industry must work together to dismantle the barriers preventing women from participating in these crucial studies. And while legislative strides are being made to foster a more equitable healthcare system, the
journey towards global inclusivity is far from over. Adding to this momentum is the rise of generative AI (GenAI), a game-changer poised to
revolutionise healthcare, including clinical trials. Traditional analytical tools struggle to keep pace with the ever-expanding volume of data, but AI offers a powerful solution. By synthesising vast amounts of information, AI empowers doctors to make more informed decisions, leading to better patient outcomes. By harnessing the potential of cutting-edge technologies and fostering collaboration, we can ensure that medical research and treatments accurately reflect the diverse tapestry of our population. This will pave the way for improved health outcomes for women and other
underserved groups, ultimately creating a brighter and healthier future for all.


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