Virtual-First Clinical Trials: Changing Where Clinical Research Happens


Lightship has a virtual-first and hybrid approach to clinical research. But what exactly does that mean for patients and care partners? All regulations and patient protections remain the same.  

What changes is the increased level of access and convenience.  

“In a virtual-first approach, we are not changing how the clinical trial is conducted, we are changing where it is conducted,” explains Rachael Scott, Chief Commercial Officer, Lightship. “Our staff of clinical research nurses visit patients in their home. Appointments with the Principal Investigator managing the trial are done using telehealth. It is incredibly convenient and saves a lot of time by greatly decreasing, or in some cases, eliminating, travel to and from a physical clinical site, significantly reducing patient and care-giver burden.”  

This increase in access is not limited to home. Lightship nurses can also visit patients at work, or at another location, which we at Lightship call, “the Third Place”. In pediatric clinical trials, nurses can deliver clinical care at the patient’s school, so that students are missing less time out of class when they are part of a clinical trial. 

A variety of digital tools can be paired with apps on mobile phones or tablets to monitor patient health. These can include easily operable blood pressure, heart rate and glucose monitors, to name just a few. 

The hybrid part of the equation enters when certain tests or procedures cannot be conducted in a patient’s home or other location, such as MRIs and CAT scans. In these cases, participants may go to a clinic, hospital or medical office. The benefit of the hybrid model is that clinic visits are minimized, reducing the burden of travel and other logistical considerations, such as coordinating childcare or missing work. 

“This virtual-first and hybrid approach has a three-fold effect,” says David MacMurchy, CEO Lightship. “First, you are increasing access for patients when you remove geographic barriers, because they can now be part of a clinical trial, regardless of where they live. Second, you are providing them with choices around where they can receive the clinical trial. And third, you are increasing equity in clinical research since you are making clinical care readily available to people of all demographics.” 

You can learn more about how Lightship conducts clinical trials here.