Integrating Digital Health Technologies (DHTs) in drug development is revolutionizing clinical trials, especially with the rise of decentralized clinical trials (DCTs). The FDA is having discussions on the topic as it seems to broadly define clinical trial DHTs, encompassing various electronic tools that capture vital health-related data directly from patients, enabling continuous monitoring and enhancing the scope and diversity of data collected outside traditional clinical settings. However, to penetrate the clinical trials industry, the FDA encourages proactive engagement with the agency, as it ensures that these technologies align with regulatory standards, thus facilitating smoother approvals and integration into clinical practice. This article will delve into these details.

FDA’s Definition and Role of Clinical Trial DHTs in Drug Development

The FDA defines DHTs as an array of electronic tools, devices, and software used to capture health-related data directly from patients. These technologies include wearable devices and mobile health applications that manage, compile, and analyze health and clinical trial data. They facilitate data collection through continuous monitoring and recording of new types of clinical information that traditional methods may not capture. This real-time data collection supports decentralized clinical trials by allowing data gathering remotely from patients’ homes or other locations, thus broadening the scope and diversity of data acquisition in clinical settings.

These tools are pivotal in modernizing the clinical trial landscape, making trials more flexible and participant-friendly. The FDA supports this integration through various initiatives, including establishing a DHT Steering Committee, publishing guidelines on using clinical trial DHTs, and engaging stakeholders through public workshops and meetings. These efforts aim to create a collaborative environment to facilitate the adoption and regulatory acceptance of DHTs in clinical research.

Is The Definition of DHTs Narrow or Broad, Per FDA?

The FDA does not appear to have chosen a narrow definition for DHTs, allowing for a broad category that includes everything from wearable devices to remote microsampling tools that facilitate the decentralized collection of biological samples.

This broad definition could be perceived as strategic, accommodating the fast evolution of technology in healthcare by ensuring the regulatory framework remains flexible and inclusive. By avoiding narrow constraints, the FDA can ensure that the scope of DHTs can evolve with technological advancements, supporting innovation while maintaining the necessary oversight for safety and efficacy in patient care and clinical research. This approach can help to facilitate the adoption of emerging technologies, potentially transforming clinical trial practices and improving clinical trial and patient outcomes.

Why Is It Important to Engage The FDA?

Engaging with the FDA while developing clinical trial DHTs is crucial for several reasons. First, it ensures that the technologies meet regulatory requirements essential for their eventual adoption in clinical settings. Early engagement can clarify regulatory pathways and help streamline the approval process. While engaging the FDA at every step is not a strict requirement, doing so can significantly mitigate risks and avoid potential setbacks. Moreover, the FDA offers guidance to improve product design and functionality, ensuring that the technologies align with current standards and best practices in patient care. Engaging with the FDA is also beneficial in gaining insights into the evolving regulatory landscape related to digital health and, more importantly, attaining the necessary validations to use DHTs in clinical trial settings.

Engaging With The FDA

This section outlines how The FDA recommends how DHT enterprises should engage them.

  1. Pre-Submission Interaction: Early and proactive engagement with the FDA is essential for successfully integrating DHTs in drug development. Pre-submission meetings are a strategic tool, allowing developers to gain preliminary feedback and guidance from the agency, which can significantly smooth the pathway for approval. These discussions can clarify regulatory expectations and refine product development plans, ensuring alignment with FDA requirements from an early stage.
  2. DHT Steering Committee: The FDA has established a DHT Steering Committee designed to serve as a central point of contact for developers seeking guidance on using digital technologies in clinical research. This committee is instrumental in providing specialized knowledge and recommendations, helping to navigate the complex regulatory landscape. Engagement with the steering committee ensures developers receive up-to-date information and tailored advice regarding deploying their technologies.
  3. Public Workshops and Meetings: Anyone involved in developing and applying DHTs must participate in public workshops and meetings hosted by the FDA. These forums offer invaluable insights into the current regulatory environment and emerging trends within digital health. Regular attendance can enhance understanding of FDA perspectives, foster network building with other industry and regulatory professionals, and provide a platform for discussing common challenges and innovative solutions.


As the landscape of medical technology continues to advance, the FDA’s broad yet inclusive approach to defining clinical trial DHTs plays a critical role in fostering innovation while ensuring safety and efficacy in clinical practices. By maintaining a flexible regulatory framework, the FDA supports integrating cutting-edge technologies into healthcare, paving the way for more personalized and efficient patient care. The ongoing dialogue with the FDA is essential, as it helps refine these technologies to meet rigorous standards, ultimately leading to their successful implementation in enhancing clinical trial outcomes.

author avatar
Moe Alsumidaie Chief Editor
Moe Alsumidaie is Chief Editor of The Clinical Trial Vanguard. Moe holds decades of experience in the clinical trials industry. Moe also serves as Head of Research at CliniBiz and Chief Data Scientist at Annex Clinical Corporation.