Clinical trial visits in the age of COVID-19: implementation of research participant safety measures
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on how current clinical trials are being conducted in the United States. Researchers have experienced the effects of COVID-19 through the halting and delaying of clinical trials, the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE), the closing of clinical sites, and a decrease in participant recruitment. Many clinical trials will have more missing data because of a participant’s inability to attend in-person visits, discontinuation of trial activities, or interruption of time-sensitive study collection data due to COVID-19. All of these events affect the data quality of trials. Government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), and National Institutes Of Health (NIH) have issued recommendations for investigators conducting clinical trials to combat the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain data integrity. Institutions sponsoring clinical trials have also provided guidelines to continue, modify, or pause research studies that are essential to ensure participant and research team safety. Key recommendations include implementing telehealth appointments, wearing a protective mask and face shield, quarantining for 14 days if exposed to COVID-19 or having travelled, and, if possible, maintaining a 6-foot distance. It is also recommended that investigators implement COVID-19 screening questionnaires prior to and during on-site visits. This includes participants and research personnel completing a temperature check and questionnaire screen before in-person data collection. This article will discuss the challenges encountered by researchers conducting clinical trials and provide resources and examples to assist investigators during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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