Implementation of documented and written informed consent for clinical trials of communicable diseases: Lessons learned, barriers, solutions, future directions identified during the conduct of a COVID-19 clinical trial

Implementation of documented and written informed consent for clinical trials of communicable diseases: Lessons learned, barriers, solutions, future directions identified during the conduct of a COVID-19 clinical trial
Patricia Woods, Maura Flynn, Paul Monach, Karen Visnaw, Sara Schiller, Erika Holmberg, Sarah Leatherman, Ryan Ferguson, Westyn Branch-Elliman
Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, September 2021, 23
Abstract
Background and objective
The communicable nature of many infectious diseases, including SARS-CoV-2, creates challenges for implementing and obtaining regulatory-compliant written informed consent. The goal of this project was to identify and evaluate processes that address these barriers while maintaining clinical and research staff safety.
Methods
We reviewed Federal Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), and VA Office of Research and Development (ORD) guidance about informed consent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and identified and pilot-tested several mechanisms for obtaining regulatory-compliant consent during our COVID-19 therapeutics clinical trial.
Results
Several processes were identified. These included a standard face-to-face consent with a plan for maintaining a paper copy of the signed consent form, a phone or video chat consent process that included taking a picture of the signed consent form or a screen shot of the signed document during a video chat, integration of the consent forms into software embedded within the electronic health record, and secure software programs with electronic signature. These processes are FDA-compliant but time-intensive, often requiring four or more hours of coordination between the clinical team, research staff, patients, and legally authorized representatives.
Conclusions
Future studies could evaluate how to improve efficiency, and whether some elements of the consenting process, such as the requirement for documented written signed consent, rather than a witnessed oral consent, is an acceptable standard for research participants with communicable diseases.

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