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Home » Clinical Trials » Including older people in clinical trials to develop innovative healthcare solutions

Professor Michelle Canavan

Professor of Older Adult Health and Consultant Geriatrician, Saolta University Health Care Group

 Dr Ruairi Waters

Consultant Stroke Physician at Saolta University Health Care Group

Dr Catriona Reddin

Geriatric Medicine Specialist Registrar, Saolta University Health Care Group and ICAT fellow, University of Galway

Researchers in Ireland are working on increasing access to clinical trials for older people to have targeted healthcare solutions that help maintain their independence as they get older.

Older people are vastly underrepresented in clinical trials despite shouldering a disproportionate burden of chronic health issues. However, a cohort of research doctors in the Institute for Clinical Trials in Galway are working to ensure scientific advances are translated into improved care for older patients.

Addressing unique needs of older people

Dr Robert Murphy from the Saolta University Health Care Group says: “We have a young, vibrant research team, which is tackling problems in older adults with a particular focus on prevention and management of conditions that lead to disability.”

The team aims to find ways to ensure that older adults live long and independently. “Our research is also designed to be inclusive, ensuring that harder-to-reach populations are represented and have equal access to medical support,” he adds.

Structuring healthcare delivery for older people

Prof Michelle Canavan, Professor of Older Adult Health at the University of Galway, believes that involvement in clinical trials, which informs evidence-based care, improves the standard of care for everyone in the region. “Multidisciplinary care is the cornerstone of geriatric medicine and therefore, research in this area involves doctors, nurses, carers and health and social care professionals (physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, social workers, among others) working with the older person themselves,” she says.

Our research is also designed to be inclusive, ensuring that harder-to-reach populations are represented and have equal access to medical support.

Dr Robert Murphy

Providing accessible clinical trials both in hospitals and at community level is key. “Running clinical trials locally is vital, not only in ensuring that older people are represented (particularly those from rural areas) but also to drive innovations in healthcare, which often come from clinical research. The newly launched Institute for Clinical Trials at University of Galway will help advance and accelerate this,” she adds.

Medtech devices to aid care

University of Galway is a Medtech Hub, with an interest in how medical devices can lead to improvements in patient care or diagnosis of common conditions. Dr Ruairi Waters is Co-Principal Investigator on a General Practice based screening trial for atrial fibrillation (AF). AF has a five-fold increase in the risk of stroke. A major care gap in stroke prevention is the prevalence of undetected AF. “Through a clinical trial, we aim to determine if extended cardiac monitoring using external wearable monitors results in increased AF detection in high-risk individuals.”

Dietary supplements for falls

Dr Catriona Reddin is completing a PhD exploring the association between dietary factors and falls; within this, she is gaining training in clinical trials supported by the Institute. “There’s a research gap in the older adult population for the treatment of a common cause of falls, orthostatic hypotension (where blood pressure falls when standing up). Our new clinical research study (STOOD trial) aims to determine if increasing salt intake in older adults with falls is tolerable and effective as treatment for this condition.” With access to trials and innovation in medical products, researchers hope to make dramatic changes in healthcare to improve quality of life and maintain independence for older people.

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