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People Will Unlock the Power of AI- Insights from the ACDM Conference

I recently had the pleasure of attending my first Association for Clinical Data Management (ACDM) conference in Copenhagen. It is always inspiring to spend time at industry events – seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and hearing insights from some of the best clinical data management professionals in the world. ACDM is an opportunity for colleagues from all corners of our clinical data community to get together and explore key trends, technologies and lessons learned. Of course, we all go to these conferences to build our knowledge and keep up to speed with the latest and greatest- especially in light of ongoing technological advances. But we also go to make connections, and at this year’s conference, these priorities of people and technology came together in interesting ways.

Reflecting on ACDM24 – Some Important Takeaways

Why Do Innovative Technologies or Approaches Fail to Deliver Against Expectations?

As is the case across the industry, the conference was buzzing with discussions around the potential for AI to improve how we work. Yet, to date, industry adoption has been less assertive than hype and expectations suggest. The eClinical Solutions’ 2024 Industry Outlook found that while most respondents saw AI as the trend most likely to yield tangible impact within 12 months, 80% of organizations remained in the exploration stage- a significant disconnect. In relation to this, the Day 1 keynote from Andrew Miles, Head of EMEA, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Google Cloud, made the critical point that when innovation sees tentative adoption, it often has nothing to do with whether the tool or method works but is due to a lack of buy-in. In other words, as excited as we get about a new tool or way of doing things, we cannot overlook the need to win over the people that will need to use it. To that end, as I’ve often pointed out, including during my own ACDM presentation, we need to be creative and strategic in our mission to get organizational-wide buy-in for transformative initiatives. Put simply, we need to inspire teams and get them energized about change.

Regulatory Considerations Around AI

More than a few of my industry colleagues were keen to discuss the evolving regulatory response to AI. Regulators are very aware of the increasing use of AI-enabled solutions in research, but there are considerations about how models are trained and how to apply regulatory oversight to the training of these models that we need to bear in mind as we move forward.

The Evolution of the Clinical Data Manager

There were many conversations, both within the schedule of presentations and impromptu floor discussions that acknowledged that the role of the clinical data manager is changing as part of overall transformation towards clinical data science. In an ongoing evolution, clinical data managers are moving away from routine activities to more analytical and oversight-focused functions. In this context, and as advanced technologies play an increased role in data management, clinical data managers will increasingly need to work routinely alongside AI systems, using their analytical capabilities to enhance data integrity and quality. As my eClinical Solutions colleague Mary Bailey eloquently described in her ACDM presentation, using tools like AI is not about removing human judgement, but transforming and elevating the human’s role and extending our capabilities- as the ‘human in the loop’.

Another way the clinical data manager role could evolve, as noted by ACDM presenter Adam Baumgart of Alcedo Consulting, is through taking more responsibility over centralized monitoring. After all, clinical data managers already have a unique understanding of the data and its lifecycle. In the future state, clinical data managers will be freed from manual tasks and more involved in the business of managing risks, data integration, and generating meaning and insights.

Long Story Short, It’s About People

Yes, everyone at ACDM was interested in talking and learning about technology. But ultimately, many of these conversations are about how people will need to interact and engage with these transformational tools. We all understand the potential of AI, ML and automation. But if we don’t put in the groundwork of nurturing the people that need to use these solutions and developing the processes necessary for positive collaboration between humans and technology, then we risk spinning our wheels. Instead, we can drive the industry forward by being change agents, committing ourselves to learning how these solutions work and developing ways of working with them effectively and ethically. The rewards of getting it right are high- reduced cycle times, greater R&D productivity and delivering life-changing breakthroughs and cures to patients who need them.

To connect with the eClinical Solutions team at an upcoming event, review our event and speaker schedule.

For more insights into clinical data management and the clinical research industry, check out our 2024 Industry Outlook survey.

2024 Industry Outlook: Driving Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs with Clinical Data Transformation