Forecasts Are Always Wrong

Posted by Rust Felix on November 29, 2018

I've got a quick question for those of you with the increasingly difficult responsibility of executing clinical trial protocols: 

Do you want to reduce waste and cost in your clinical trial supply chain while completing your study on time & on budget?

Dumb question, I know. Who doesn’t?!

Finding a way to pull this off successfully is the holy grail of clinical supply chain management. It’s an unending quest to efficiently move devices, drugs, kits, bulk supplies, and equipment from suppliers to study sites and patients. ClinOps has traditionally relied on forecasts, spreadsheets, and lots of manual coordination to get it done.

But most of the time these clinical supply chain forecasts are flat out wrong. And this really isn't that surprising, because forecasts are always wrong. Statisticians know that every forecast has an error band, and would argue that their predictions are accurate as long as the actual values fall within that range.

But a lot can happen if those bounds are too wide - real world results could fall within the error band and still very negatively impact your clinical trial. To further drive this point home: only 47% of stock market forecasts are correct. Very smart, well paid people with expansive data sets are consistently generating worse odds than the flip of a coin. Think about that the next time you fire up Excel and start working on your clinical supply data models.

Clinical supply chain forecasting is immensely difficult because it's based on assumptions and lagging dataTrial inventory levels can shift wildly from one day to the next because patients are people and they don't always follow predetermined mathematical curves.

Couple this with a lack of visibility at the site level and the result is clinical inventory & supply distribution running in reactive mode with ClinOps teams trying desperately to untangle the clinical supply chain while chasing data and losing sleep.undraw_alert_mc7bBecause of this, trial delays are the new status quo, a result of over reliance on manual processes throughout the clinical supply chain. With this comes some scary statistics:

  1. 77% of sites report regular inventory outages that impact their patients.
  2. 80% of studies don’t hit their enrollment goals.
  3. 94% of clinical trials are delayed more than a month.
  4. On average, delays cause $129M in revenue opportunity loss per trial.

Now close your eyes and imagine a world where your ClinOps run smoothly.

Your study sites always have what they need to enroll & retain patients. Your suppliers automatically send the right things at the right times. You have the visibility to easily spot small problems before they turn into big ones. Your trials always finish on time and within budget.

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? There’s clearly a mismatch between where we are and where we want to go. So how do we get to the point where the holy grail is finally within reach? Let's take a step back and look at the ClinOps tools we have at our disposal.

Electronic Data Capture was revolutionary when it debuted.

The same could be said for the first Clinical Trial Management System. These eClinical software solutions facilitated massive, transformational jumps in the way clinical trials are managed and conducted.

The forward-thinking Sponsors & CROs who quickly adopted trial and business process automation technology held a distinct advantage over everyone else. They enrolled faster with fewer problems. Their trials finished on time and within budget.

You’re presented with a choice:

Stay the course for your pipeline, accepting trial delays, enrollment problems, and budget overruns as the cost of doing business.

Or, educate yourself on the coming wave of clinical supply chain automation and how it can eliminate a lot of the problems that have been keeping you up at night.

Which do you choose?

Rust Felix

Written by Rust Felix

Rust Felix is the Co-founder and CEO of Slope. He's passionate about helping Sites & Sponsors improve recruitment & retention through better inventory management.