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Regional + Verily: What Does it Mean for Patients

Jun 20, 2019 07:00AM ● By MED Magazine

In early June, Regional Health announced that it had joined with a group of major medical groups to improve the way clinicians and patients connect with research opportunities.

The Baseline Consortium includes Vanguard Health System, Duke University, Vanderbilt, the University of Mississippi, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Pittsburgh and is sponsored by Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet, which is Google’s parent company.

MED asked Regional Health’s director of research, Roger DeRaad, about the new connection and what it could mean for Black Hills area providers and patients.

“Verily has big data and lots of experience identifying patient groups and reaching out to them,” says DeRaad. “They have also have lots of data-gathering technology. Things like pads that measure sleep activity, smart watches, etc.”

“The main idea behind this group is that we know that people want to participate in research. Clinicians want to participate. The products and devices that are being developed need research. But there is a missing nexus. We need to make it easier for clinicians to participate if they want to and we need to make it easier for them to find patients.”

DeRaad, who represents Regional Health in the consortium along with Interventional Cardiologist Drew Purdy, MD, says 30 to 40 percent of research time is spent just finding patient participants. The hope is that the consortium will come up with ideas to streamline the process so that more time can be spent doing the actual research.

“One of the big challenges is how to develop lines of communication and that is something that Verily has a lot of experience with,” says DeRaad, who is a Nurse Practitioner. “I personally have an Apple watch. I use a lot of apps. I know my heart rate, my blood sugar, my sleep patterns, my weight. But my doctor doesn’t know any of that. Verily is going ‘That’s a shame. We are collecting all this data, but it is not being used to improve healthcare’.”

The consortium will meet for the first time in San Francisco in July. Their goal will be to identify roadblocks that prevent potential clinical trial participants from connecting with research opportunities.

“When we have identified some of these roadblocks, we’ll focus on what healthcare groups might do to break them down. We will analyze the variables and, hopefully, come up with some areas we think we can impact. Then we’ll come up with a test project.”

Regional has already done some of the groundwork. Eight patients and their spouses are taking part in a clinical research advocacy group, the goal of which is to learn how patients want to be approached about research and how they want to participate.

“The bottom line is that, right now, the process is way too complicated, cumbersome, and expensive,” says DeRaad. “I suspect there are more people who would enthusiastically participate in research if they knew about it and could easily sign up. It is almost always a good thing for the patients. People typically like the extra time and attention they get from a provider when they are a trial participant. And a lot of times we pick up on issues that might have been missed because they weren’t due to see their regular physician for months.”

Although Regional is not one of the bigger health systems in the consortium, DeRaad says their participation could have important implications for other rural communities.

“It is important to do research in our smaller communities,” he says. “We don’t want all the research being done in academic institutions in urban areas, because the results are going to be extrapolated to us and our lives.”

“The other thing is that research is going to have to change anyway. We might as well play a role in transforming it.”