Professor Simon Finfer and Associate Professor Judith Trotman lead the Clinical Trials Theme for Sydney Health Partners. Below they outline what their group is doing to help researchers and clinicians conduct clinical trials across Sydney Health Partners and, in turn, improve patients’ outcomes through better evidence based treatment and access to emerging treatments.
What are you working on?
The Sydney Health Partners Clinical Trials group is a multi-disciplinary team, including active clinical trialists and research administrators. Our strategic goal is for Sydney Health Partners to be recognised as the most productive and ‘clinical trial friendly’ research partnership in Australia. We are working to embed clinical trials into clinical practice within our Local Health District Partners (Sydney, Northern Sydney and Western Sydney Local Health Districts), ensuring our patients receive outstanding care. Another priority for the group is to promote the implementation of research results into practice across Sydney Health Partners.
Our initial projects are to establish a unified, searchable clinical trial registry for Sydney Health Partners and to establish a Clinical Trials Core Facility within each of our Local Health District Partners. To date our work has been focused primarily on developing a Sydney Health Partners-specific version of the ClinTrial Refer smart phone app, allowing clinicians and researchers to rapidly access details of all the currently recruiting clinical trials being run across the Partnership. Although not a traditional registry ClinTrial Refer will provide visibility of the currently recruiting trials across the SHP network which we hope will stimulate further collaboration amongst the Partners and assist the development of a searchable registry.
Why are you undertaking these projects?
While there are many barriers to the successful completion of clinical trials, the most common reason for failure is slow or inadequate recruitment of patients. Lack of awareness of currently recruiting trials amongst clinicians, difficulty in checking patient eligibility and locating active clinical trials sites are all modifiable factors that contribute to eligible patients being missed.
The development of the Sydney Health Partners ClinTrial Refer App, led by Associate Professor Judith Trotman, addresses these issues by providing a user-friendly listing of all the trials recruiting patients across clinical sites within the partnership. The app can be searched by specialty, subcategory and location. It allows clinicians and researchers to rapidly and easily access trials that relevant to their patients – facilitating better connections between researchers, clinicians and patients.
A further barrier to conducting clinical trials can be a lack of skilled research assistance. The process of establishing and running a clinical trial is now extremely complex with many logistic and administrative hurdles to overcome. We plan to establish at least one Clinical Trials Core Facility within each of our Local Health District Partners so that less experienced investigators and research coordinators can seek and get assistance. The cyclical nature of clinical trials workload means that project-specific staff are either under-used or overburdened, and establishing Clinical Trials Core Facilities will provide greater efficiency in the conduct of trials.
Who are you trying to help?
We want to help researchers who are conducting clinical trials across Sydney Health Partners, help clinicians who want to give their patients the opportunity to access clinical trials, and help patients by giving them the opportunity for improved evidence based treatment and access to new and emerging therapies.
In 2016 the Clinical Trials Stream was awarded a $40,000 grant from Sydney Health Partners to accelerate the development of the Sydney Health Partners ClinTrial Refer app. Find out more about how the app is progressing in this interview with University of Sydney Medical School student Fatima Tahir here.