Which decentralised trial activities are reported in clinical trial protocols of drug trials initiated in 2019-2020? A cross-sectional study in ClinicalTrials.gov

BMJ Open. 2022 Aug 29;12(8):e063236. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-063236.


Objectives: Decentralised clinical trial activities-such as participant recruitment via social media, data collection through wearables and direct-to-participant investigational medicinal product (IMP) supply-have the potential to change the way clinical trials (CTs) are conducted and with that to reduce the participation burden and improve generalisability. In this study, we investigated the decentralised and on-site conduct of trial activities as reported in CT protocols with a trial start date in 2019 or 2020.

Design: We ascertained the decentralised and on-site conduct for the following operational trial activities: participant outreach, prescreening, screening, obtaining informed consent, asynchronous communication, participant training, IMP supply, IMP adherence monitoring, CT monitoring, staff training and data collection. Results were compared for the public versus private sponsors, regions involved, trial phases and four time periods (the first and second half of 2019 and 2020, respectively).

Setting: Phases 2, 3 and 4 clinical drug trial protocols with a trial start date in 2019 or 2020 available from ClinicalTrials.gov.

Outcome measures: The occurrence of decentralised and on-site conduct of the predefined trial activities reported in CT protocols.

Results: For all trial activities, on-site conduct was more frequently reported than decentralised conduct. Decentralised conduct of the individual trial activities was reported in less than 25.6% of the 254 included protocols, except for decentralised data collection, which was reported in 68.9% of the protocols. More specifically, 81.9% of the phase 3 protocols reported decentralised data collection, compared with 73.3% and 47.0% of the phase 2 and 4 protocols, respectively. For several activities, including prescreening, screening and consenting, upward trends in reporting decentralised conduct were visible over time.

Conclusions: Decentralised methods are used in CTs, mainly for data collection, but less frequently for other activities. Sharing best practices and a detailed description in protocols can drive the adoption of decentralised methods.

Keywords: clinical trials; protocols & guidelines; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Time Factors