January 31, 2023
Reflections on My Conversation with a Principal Investigator in Ukraine
In November 2022, I had a fascinating conversation with Roman Fishchuk, an ENT doctor and principal investigator who runs a clinical trials unit based in Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine. He explained how there is a disconnect between what is happening on the ground in Ukraine and what the rest of the world perceives to be true. When we in the West read about the assault on Ukraine, it is easy to assume the situation is the same across the country. But, as Roman told me, in western Ukraine where he lives and works, the situation is safer than in the east or the south.
As an investigator, he is working hard to provide medical services to his patients, running clinical trials and helping to keep the economy afloat. The average person has had to learn to survive in the most arduous of circumstances and it is far from easy. Amid frequent power cuts and curfews, Roman must juggle many tasks, ranging from contract and budget negotiations, HR planning, trial management and patient visits. At the same time, he continues to explain to sponsors and CROs that clinical trials are very much needed – and can be run safely – in Ukraine.
Keeping Trials Running in a War Zone
A recent 2023 update from Roman informed me that he is set to start a new COVID-19 study in the next few weeks with a national CRO – his efforts to get clinical research back on track in Ukraine have not been completely in vain. However, for now, the companies he worked with before the war started are still on hold. Previously, Roman had around 200 patients who were participating in clinical trials, but fewer patients now attend the unit because of the pause.
And for the patients who attend Roman’s unit the situation is unpredictable. At the start of our podcast conversation last year, Roman had just returned from an air raid shelter. Sirens go off frequently in his area, disturbing patient care. This is where technology such as telehealth can come in useful – as long as the patient’s condition is not critical. In the event of a siren or other disruptions, patients can communicate remotely through secure messaging and compliant applications on their phone so they can continue their treatment with no interruptions.
Technology also helps staff coordinate more effectively and efficiently. In our chat, Roman discussed how Teckro makes his life as an investigator much easier. He explained that there are usually so many platforms, technologies, software and devices it can be overwhelming. As Roman put it, “if you have 10 or 15 different trials in different indications and every CRO uses its own set of software and devices for each trial, we can work with up to 10 different systems online.” He went on to discuss how his daily work is simplified with Teckro because everything is in one place. If a patient comes in, the member of staff can easily check their smartphone instead of having to look for the printed version of the protocol or go through their computer looking for a PDF.
During emergencies, Teckro can keep trials going with its flexibility and easy-to-access information. Whether it’s a war or bad weather like a hurricane or a flood, in such a scenario site staff could potentially have problems accessing the resources they need. Part of the hospital where Roman works is currently a military hospital, so he can’t use some of the facilities and research rooms like before. Instead, Roman and his staff can get instant answers via Teckro.
This allows staff to have the peace of mind they need to keep managing trials even in extremely difficult circumstances. In Roman’s words: “Teckro saves us time. It gives us confidence in that we are doing the right things and that we're not missing anything if we conduct a visit for a patient.”
Listen to more discussions with diverse stakeholders in the clinical trial ecosystem on the Totally Clinical podcast.
Listen to further updates from Roman Fishchuk in Ukraine on the SCRS podcast.