Microsoft has developed a clinical trials chatbot designed to optimize matching patients with appropriate clinical trials, Bloomberg first reports. By using AI-driven machine reading technology to ingest the selection criteria for each clinical trial, the chatbot uses this data to determine which questions to ask patients and matches their answers to suitable clinical trials. The chatbot initially started as a hackathon project at Microsoft’s Corp’s lab in Israel and is part of a larger Microsoft healthcare bot service initiative whose current partners include Premera Blue Cross and Aurora Health Care.
Challenges of Patient Recruitment in Clinical Trials
Patient recruitment in clinical trials is a growing challenge and concern for the pharmaceutical industry. Today, nearly 80% of clinical trials fail to meet enrollment timelines and up to 50% of research sites enroll one or no patients. According to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD), clinical trial enrollment rates overall have dropped 20 percent since 2000, with only 2 million volunteers now participating. For patients that are considering clinical trials as an option, the complexity of getting matched with the right trial as well as understanding the requirements, risks, and benefits is often a nightmare.
“Half of all clinical trials for new drugs and therapies never reach the number of patients needed to start, and many others are delayed for the same reason, Bitran said. Meanwhile, patients, sometimes desperately sick, find it hard to comb through the roughly 50,000 trials worldwide and their arcane and lengthy criteria — typically 20 to 30 factors. Even doctors struggle to search quickly on behalf of patients,” said Hadas Bitran, group manager of Microsoft Healthcare Israel. “It was a big passion project for everyone involved,” Bitran said. “We heard stories of families who would sit for days and days looking at the trials.”
Clinical Trials Chatbot: How It Works
Patients type in a search, such as “trials for a 52-year old California female with breast cancer.” The chatbot responds with questions such as whether the patient had chemotherapy for metastatic disease — a cancer that has spread — and how far the patient can travel. The bot then offers five choices that describe the patient’s current health and ability to be active and care for herself. As the patient selects from the multiple-choice answers, the chatbot generates the next question and refines the list of available trials.
Future Plans for Clinical Trials Chatbot
The clinical trials bot was accepted as part of the U.S. White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program and was demonstrated last week at a closed-door event at the White House and U.S. Census Bureau. Microsoft plans to market the chatbot directly to pharmaceutical companies to help them find participants for clinical trials. No partners have been announced to date.