ProofPilot relaunches software to enable anyone to run an RCT

By Jonah Comstock

New York City-based ProofPilot, a startup creating technology to help anyone launch a randomized control trial, has re-launched its clinical trial product.

The software-as-a-service product is available to academic and clinical researchers as well as individuals, non-profits, and community groups. There are a range of versions at different price points, with the lowest being free and the highest at about $4,000 a month. For that, users get an end-to-end offering that lets them design a study, collect data, and analyze it. For data collection, ProofPilot can pull data from 35 connected devices and from many electronic health records.

“What ProofPilot does is it makes it really easy to launch the same kinds of studies that have always been used, but it automates the processes, makes the planning process really easy, brings the cost way down, and makes it possible to get to some basic findings without a whole staff,” ProofPilot CEO Matthew Amsden told MobiHealthNews. 

ProofPilot’s free studies are funded by partnering with businesses that offer free trials of their services as an incentive to research participants. 

“The researcher wins because they don’t have to fund the study, the participant wins because they’re discovering new products and services and they’re still being rewarded for engaging in a research study, and the brand wins because they are essentially providing an advertisement the participant actually works for, so the uptake is really high,” Amsden said. “It’s a form of advertising without appearing to be advertising. It’s a really great experience, and it makes us really happy because we’re able to do research studies when the researcher doesn’t have any money at all, which is not all that uncommon.”

Given that both initiatives involve app-based clinical trials, comparison to Apple’s ResearchKit is inevitable. But Amsden says ProofPilot is a very different proposition, because it’s much more comprehensive. Even with Apple’s software being free and open-source, building a ResearchKit app is still expensive and still requires hiring an app developer. Furthermore, ResearchKit studies aren’t necessarily RCTs.

ProofPilot raised $1.85 million in 2014 and launched their original software suite with a number of customers. But based on feedback for that system, they opted to stop accepting new studies for a while in order to completely overhaul the system.

“We made an assumption that researchers knew what study they wanted to run, and based on our [previous] experience, that these researchers were pretty good at using technology,” Amsden said. “The reality is they weren’t. These researchers didn’t know how to create the research study they had in their head and create a study that was going to be automated and use technology efficiently. And they had a hard time. … It was really problematic and we felt like we were a consulting firm that masqueraded as a tech firm.”

Because the team itself was providing so much support, Amsden said, the technology wasn’t very scaleable and wasn’t on a solid foundation for growth. The new version that launches today handholds the researcher a lot more in designing the study, has a more visually-oriented design, and is platform-agnostic for the participant — they can participate by app, by email, or by text message, and there are plans in the works for other modalities like Amazon Echo.

“[We have to] think about who our customers really are, not who we want them to be,” Amsden said. “There’s a great deal of promise for this tech innovation now. The wider world is familiar with Gmail and online banking. They expect when a health innovation comes out, regardless of how complicated the actual pieces are, they still expect it to be as easy to use as Gmail or online banking.”