A team of researchers from the University of Buffalo (UB) have created a smartphone app, called Participants in Science (PartSci), designed to help patients quickly find clinical trials in their geographic locations, matching their own health interests and conditions.

The team of researchers, which are funded by the university’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), hope to boost recruitment for clinical trials.

According to UB, on average it takes 17 years for laboratory breakthroughs to reach patients. A big part of the delay is the time it takes to recruit patients into clinical trials to test new treatments or devices.

Furthermore, only 5 to 10 % of eligible adults enrol in these trials, and some studies have found that only 5% of patients who showed initial interest in a clinical trial will complete it.

“A key goal of the CTSA grant is to improve patient access to medical innovations available in our region through clinical trials,” said Professor and Chair of the UB Department of Biomedical Informatics, Peter Elkin.

“We’ve developed a cell phone app that allows patients to quickly and easily evaluate clinical trials, the time commitment involved and the location of the study nearest their home,” continued Prof Elkin.

PartSci  is integrated with UB’s local clinical trial management system and will access information on registered clinical trials in the region and send them to a database, with data about the trials using natural language processing technology developed by Prof Elkin and his colleagues.

Patients can search for clinical trials by typing in the name of their condition or the kind of study they’re interested in. When the patient finds a study that interests them, they just push a button and their contact information is sent to the study coordinator who can contact them to begin recruitment.

“This app has the potential to significantly speed enrolment in clinical trials and the translation of basic research into new therapies to benefit our patients. By allowing patients to essentially self-recruit, this app empowers individuals to more actively participate in improving their health and the health of their communities,” said Prof Elkin.

Prof Elkin is designing a similar app to help clinicians who are looking for clinical trials for their patients. The apps are expected to be available by the end of the winter via iTunes and Google Play.

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