You often hear dedicated users of wireless handhelds exclaim, “I can’t lose that, my life is in there!” Now, there’s even more truth to that.
Last June, Vitagen, a La Jolla, Calif.-based biotechnology company, began using wireless devices to manage randomization for a series of clinical trials for an artificial liver system called the Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device (ELAD). The ELAD contains live human liver cells and can support a patient’s liver functions for up to 10 days, by which time hopefully he will have had the needed transplant. Vitagen’s clinical trials were in high demand, and doctors needed to know which patients involved in the trials were receiving the ELAD treatment and which were in a control group. Using a software program developed by Synteract, a contract research organization in Encinitas, Calif., and the SAS Institute in Cary, N.C., doctors were able to access randomization codes (tracking which patients are treated with the new device and which with standard treatment) via handheld devices over a wireless connection, saving vital time.
Before the applications were developed, doctors used phone, fax or e-mail to access up-to-date information, which was maintained by Synteract. Now, instead of lugging laptops from room to room, doctors can do their job anywhere as long as they have a Palm VII with them.
“The patients we work with are critically ill,” said Patrick Maguire, Vitagen’s vice president of medical affairs and technology development. “It is absolutely mandatory that we get the right information to the right people at the right time.”