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What role will the CRA play in future clinical trials?

Posting date: 30/01/2023
Author: Inside ICON

Clinical trials are a crucial, large and growing part of the medical industry that is showing significant promise in the coming years. In fact, statistics highlight that the clinical trials market was worth 47 billion USD in 2021. This value is predicted to continue annual compound growth of 5.8% between now and 2030.

There are many factors contributing to making this such a fast-growing area. Everything from the globalisation of clinical trials to rapid tech evolution will continue to play an essential role. Increased demand for Clinical Research Organisations (CROs) will also see an increase in demand for experienced and qualified Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) to support clinical trials.   

In this article, we explore the evolving role of CRAs in the future of clinical trials. So, whether you are an established CRA looking to what your career may hold or you are interested in becoming a CRA and want to learn what it is all about, this article is for you.

Tech facilitating a shift in focus of CRAs

Key developments in technology will continue to impact the role CRAs undertake in clinical trials. Where previously, a CRA would have undertaken a considerable amount of admin responsibilities, this will not be the case as we move into the future. Tools such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be leveraged to undertake much of this work, such as document reviews and data collation. In turn, this will leave CRAs to take on a more strategic position, freeing up their time to focus on analysing the data and making decisions.

man using a machine wearing PPE

The increased importance of the ‘human touch’

Although technology will play a greater role in clinical trials in the coming years, professional CRAs will continue to be a crucial part of clinical trials in the future. The increased use of technology in this field will likely increase the importance of the 'human touch'.    

A CRA's presence on site will be especially crucial since they continue to offer the human side of trials and provide training tailored to their needs. In addition, CRAs will also assist site staff in understanding protocols and compliance requirements. Clinical trials would likely cease to function efficiently and reliably without this level of service.    

Virtual clinical trials

One big challenge for CRAs, especially when it comes to applying a ‘human touch’, is the continued growth of virtual clinical trials. This shift happened in large part due to the Covid-19 pandemic limiting the potential of contact between those managing trials and those participating. Today, this trend continues due to the flexibility it allows within clinical trials, unlocking opportunities without concern for distance.

As this trend continues, CRAs will need to adapt their style of working to fit into their new virtual work environments. Consequently, we will likely need to make use of a variety of new digital and physical tools to be able to control communication more effectively and record data more accurately.    

Uncertain markets

Careers in clinical trials have always been exciting, fast-paced and occasionally unpredictable. With uncertain markets across the globe, this is now truer than ever before. Again, this uncertainty is due largely to the huge challenges presented to the medical industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. But it is also influenced by other economic and political factors across the board.    

As we move into the future, CRAs will need to remain agile. Skill in assessing the changing landscape and being able to develop strategic approaches to overcoming new challenges will be more desirable than ever in the clinical research space. This is especially true when it comes to new rules and regulations, which are changing at an accelerating rate.      

Your future in clinical research

The future of clinical trials will be exciting and fast-paced. CRAs will continue to play a major part in these trials, making it the perfect option for those that want a challenging and rewarding career. We have several great opportunities for clinical research associates at ICON. Or, you can find more information about our CRA learning opportunities.      

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