A Clinical Trials Convoy: Here Comes the Mobile Clinics to Challenged Communities for COVID-19 Clinical Trials

A Clinical Trials Convoy Here Comes the Mobile Clinics to Challenged Communities for COVID-19 Clinical Trials

The Matrix Medical Network (Matrix) supports patient-centric, community-based COVID-19 vaccine trials. Why? Because this private company specializes in the home and community delivery of health care services. In this case, they’ll send a convoy of mobile clinics to communities that traditionally may not participate in much clinical research. Formed back in 2001, this group brings extensive experience, infrastructure and expertise in mobile, home or community health care. They will serve the COVID-19 Prevention Network to bring true patient-and-community-centricity to the consolidated and streamlined effort to manage COVID-19 vaccine trials under the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Matrix Clinical Solutions, through an agreement with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, now offers mobile health clinics to more than 20 academic medical centers to boost access to the investigational vaccines by deploying their mobile clinics and clinicians across the country, focusing on the populations most impacted by COVID-19. This arrangement should help the government-sponsored vaccine trials elicit more volunteer participation in vulnerable communities. 

What’s Behind the Need for the Convoy of Mobile Clinics?

Sometimes, the clinical trial has to come to the patient or participant. Part of the “patient-centricity” movement, the COVID-19 Prevention Network, set up and supported by the NIAID, part of the NIH, seeks to enroll thousands of volunteers in large-scale clinical trials testing a variety of investigational vaccines and monoclonal antibodies intended to protect people from COVID-19.

An effort of unprecedented scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this prevention network actually represents the merger and consolidation of multiple NIAID trial site infectious disease investigator networks. Many of the most at-risk communities often include African American, Latino/Hispanic, Native American and other vulnerable communities that often don’t participate in clinical research.

By bringing the study to the community, the idea is to make it easier to connect with, engage and educate prospective volunteers as to the benefit of contributing to COVID-19 vaccine research.

What is the Value of Matrix?

Matrix helps support critical trial logistics and thus helps to accelerate the vaccine development process, while maintaining the highest standards for safety and effectiveness. A major factor in the success of a vaccine trial is identifying eligible volunteers to participate. Speed of delivery is critically based on the need to identify and approve a vaccine to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic at large. It takes volunteers, and Matrix offers the infrastructure and logistics for this clinical convoy to the community.

Daniel Castillo, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Matrix, commented, “Our team will help scale the vaccine trials to reach participants, especially minorities and rural populations, by providing increased access for individuals to participate where they may otherwise have limited access to traditional health centers or trial sites.” Dr. Castillo emphasized the scale and extent of this undertaking: “In the history of vaccine development, there’s never been an initiative of this magnitude or with as much of a push to expedite safety.”

Here Comes the Clinical Trials Convoy?

The Matrix clinical convoy of mobile health clinics and clinicians collaborates with various universities, hospitals and other trial site locations across Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington to reach eligible volunteers.

In a typical clinical trial, participants would travel to established sites often affiliated with academic medical centers in major cities. Now with this clinical convoy of mobile sites, the trial comes to the patient or volunteer in the community, including those with traditional barriers to health care.

Key Orchestrator: Fred Hutchinson

Fred Hutchinson was named the coordinating center for the COVID-19 vaccine trials for the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN). Why? Well, Troy Martin, MD, MPH, Chief of Staff/CoVPN of Fred Hutch tells first and foremost the deep expertise of its teams in immunology and virology.

What is the Matrix Medical Network?

Founded in 2001, Matrix Medical Network is a leading provider of comprehensive health and wellness visits, advanced diagnostics and care management services. In partnership with a patient’s health plan, they help patients remain healthy by offering care in the convenience of the home or a telehealth interaction or in one of their mobile health clinics located in the community. The group shares the results with the patient’s primary doctor and the patient as for greater “whole person care.”

Headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ, they are a leader in supporting the needs of at-risk populations. Matrix has worked with millions of individuals across the country to assess and help them manage their health risks through a network of more than 3,000 clinicians and a fleet of mobile health clinics. The organization’s unmatched network of health care professionals meets individuals where they work and live to assess health and safety, identify and close care gaps, and offer life-changing services that activate them to manage their own health. With its deep roots in clinical assessment and care management services, Matrix was uniquely positioned to rapidly respond to the spread of COVID-19 with clinically based services to employers providing essential services to keep or return their workforces to their worksites. Today, Matrix offers customizable solutions including on-site clinics, viral testing, contact tracing, environmental assessments, clinical consultations, vaccine administration, clinical trial support, and access to an expert clinical advisory panel. Matrix services leading companies across a wide range of industries including food manufacturing, defense manufacturing, government, retail, higher education and others.

They were acquired by Providence Service Corporation in 2014. 

Call to Action: TrialSite tracks the activity of Matrix Medical Network in the context of COVID-19 vaccine trials. How will the group contribute? Does this represent a permanent new pathway for critical studies involving vulnerable populations? Stay tuned.