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Increased Utilization of Virtual Visits and Electronic Approaches in Clinical Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Thereafter



      To assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical research and the use of electronic approaches to mitigate this impact.


      We compared the utilization of electronic consenting, remote visits, and remote monitoring by study monitors in all research studies conducted at Mayo Clinic sites (Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota) before and during the COVID-19 pandemic (ie, between May 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020). Participants are consented through a participant-tracking system linked to the electronic health record.


      Between May 2019, and December 2020, there were 130,800 new consents across every modality (electronic and paper) to participate in a non-trial (107,176 [82%]) or a clinical trial (23,624 [18%]). New consents declined from 5741 in February 2020 to 913 in April 2020 but increased to 11,864 in November 2020. The mean (standard deviation [SD]) proportion of electronic consent increased from 22 (2%) before to 45 (20%) during the pandemic (P=.001). Mean (SD) remote electronic consenting increased from 0.3 (0.5%) to 29 (21%) (P<.001). The mean (SD) number of patients with virtual visits increased from 3.5 (2.4%) to 172 (135%) (P=.003) per month between pre-COVID (July 2019 to February 2020) and post-COVID (March to December 2020) periods. Virtual visits used telemedicine (68%) or video (32%). Requests for remote monitor access to complete visits increased from 44 (17%) per month between May 2019 and February 2020 to 111 (74%) per month between March and December 2020 (P=.10).


      After a sharp early decline, the enrollment of new participants and ongoing study visits recovered during the COVID-19 pandemic. This recovery was accompanied by the increased use of electronic tools.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      EHR (electronic health record), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), IRB (Mayo Clinic Institutional Review Board), PTrax (Participant Tracking System)
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