A better way to reliably collect COVID-19 data at scale

MessageBird Team

COVID-19 Research Outcomes Worldwide Network for CORONAvirus prevenTION

Crown Coronation is an innovative, international clinical trial created in response to COVID-19. “In this trial we research prophylaxis drugs for COVID-19,” shared Dominic Hague, the Clinical Project Manager for Data Management.  “We’re looking for something that will help decrease the chance of catching COVID-19 or that reduces the symptoms when you do get it.” Hague and team, the Comprehensive Clinical Trials Unit at University College of London, was tasked with setting up a massive, distributed trial across the United States and South Africa as quickly as possible to help combat the pandemic. 

The challenge of easy, accurate and consistent data collection across the world

“Large international trials are always difficult,” Hague noted, “but working during a pandemic means you’ve got to work extra fast. For this trial participants sign up, then they get accepted and assigned a treatment (either a Placebo or MMR vaccine). Once a week we check in with the participant to see if they’re feeling well or if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.” 

While that seems straightforward, coordinating the effort across multiple countries while providing a consistent experience for all the participants involved is not an easy task. Hague shared that “in many trials like this we might use an online portal for participants to fill out their information, but in that case we’d also have boots on the ground to make sure people are answering the survey and that we’re connecting to them.” Given the scale, speed, and safety requirements of this trial, that typical strategy wasn’t going to work; so, Hague and team needed to come up with a new method for data collection.  

"Large international trials are always difficult, but working during a pandemic means you've got to work extra fast. We need to use technology like MessageBird to collect data as sharp and efficiently as possible."
Clinical PM Data Management, Dominic Hague

Global and secure SMS surveys enable faster results

“For a large trial like this, we have lots of different collaborators so the trial needs to be a bit flexible, especially considering that the countries we’re working with vary in terms of local requirements and resources,” explained Hague.  In some of the remote regions where the study was to take place internet access is limited, so the team needed a way to reliably communicate with people that didn’t require an internet connection. Ultimately, the team found a solution with MessageBird.  

Crown Coronation could perform the trial surveys through automatically sent SMS messages from local regions using MessageBird’s Numbers and SMS API. “SMS is the key to collecting and tracking the data for this trial,” Hague noted. And, because the messages are programmable, Crown Coronation can create specific responses and ask different questions based on the participants results. 

Hopefully good news soon

The trial is still ongoing. Crown Coronation is hopeful that we may have results in the coming months that will lead to improving our understanding and response to this terrible pandemic.  

If you’re an organization working to combat the Coronavirus and need communication support, please see Inbox for Good.

"SMS is the key to collecting and tracking the data for this trial."
Clinical PM Data Management, Dominic Hague