On the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, this year’s theme is Restore Our Earth. We believe everyone must play a part to address the problems affecting the planet, such as global warming, pollution and deforestation.
In the last year, we’ve seen huge shifts in how we work, socialize and exist in the world. And while the pandemic has taken its toll, there are some silver linings.
For example, empty roads and airports meant that carbon emissions fell by around 6% in 2020, which in turn has reduced pollution and improved air quality around the world. This is likely short-lived, however, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a surge of CO2 emissions in 2021 as the world gets back to “normal.”
We believe it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. There are pandemic-induced changes that should be permanent to help us operate in more eco-friendly ways.
For example, modernization leads to safer, faster, more efficient clinical trials. And, on this Earth Day, we want to highlight how this is also good for the planet.
A study protocol can be 150 pages or more. Plus there is the fact that many protocols are amended at some point in the study. From our research with the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, the protocol is still quite often referenced as paper documents.
Estimates we’ve seen from the Sierra Club are that 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper equal one tree. Even if you consider that paper might be recycled, there is still the production, packaging and distribution of the paper itself. But more to the point, in today’s digital world, paper protocols are unnecessary.
In fact, sponsors on Teckro don’t even send paper protocols to sites anymore. Not only are these trials greener, but they're also safer as we see reductions in protocol deviations when site staff have the protocol immediately accessible from their digital device.
It isn’t hard to see how it is possible to dramatically decrease the amount of paper used and save thousands of trees.
Before the pandemic, monitors periodically visited sites, which provided a dated, rear-view mirror perspective of study performance at a given site. It also meant monitors were difficult to reach for site queries as they were often in transit. There’s also the environmental consideration from the emissions associated with monitors traveling about to their sites.
In today’s digital world, monitoring can be done from the comfort of home – or the office, or wherever. Not only does this real-time monitoring reduce manual efforts, but it also provides actionable insights to identify potential risks or safety concerns sooner. And communication is more immediate, so site staff get the guidance they need when they need it.
This is another case where going digital not only benefits the planet but also serves to improve the performance and safety of clinical trials.
Patient safety is paramount in clinical research. And on this Earth Day, we all must consider the health of our planet. By adopting digital technology in clinical research, both patients and the planet are well served.