Editorial Article: Remote blood collection redefines healthcare

Dr. Erwin Berthier discusses how remote capillary blood microsampling prioritizes patient experiences while maintaining clinical grade sample quality

22 May 2024

Dr. Erwin Berthier, co-founder and CTO of Tasso
Dr. Erwin Berthier, co-founder and CTO of Tasso

The experience associated with traditional blood sample collection is a major barrier to successful completion of blood testing. Factors like the need for transportation to the clinic site and scheduling conflicts with work or family obligations can present a patient with many challenges. These logistical obstacles, in combination with the unpleasant physical experience of venipuncture, can lead to the sample collection being skipped entirely. With blood testing relied upon for the majority of healthcare decisions, a missing sample has major implications. New sampling protocols are emerging which are designed to overcome these shortcomings of traditional methods, and tackle such issues. 

Patient-centric sampling, the remote collection of capillary blood microsamples via a virtually painless process, is proving to be a game-changer. Instead of relying on traditional sampling methods that could be invasive, difficult, or uncomfortable for patients, this method overcomes key obstacles by making sample collection convenient. Participants can easily collect blood at a time and location that fits their lifestyle, increasing the likelihood of completion. This emerging approach aims to improve patient adherence rates and access, while ensuring the collection of high-quality samples for diagnostic, therapeutic, or research purposes. 

The transformative impact of patient-centric sampling

Easy, accessible blood sample collection is already making waves in the research, pharma, and healthcare industries. A leader in this emerging field is Tasso, a company committed to making testing accessible and enhancing the patient healthcare journey. We spoke with Dr. Erwin Berthier, Tasso's co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, about the transformative potential of patient-centric sampling. He says, "even in the pharmaceutical space where you could think it's research, there's maybe less of an onus because we're not affecting patient care. We are affecting the understanding of disease progression. We are affecting the understanding of drug efficacy." By facilitating better understandings of disease states and therapeutics, remote capillary microsampling applied within the pharmaceutical space indirectly impacts healthcare.

Patient-centric sampling can simplify prescreening and reduce barriers to access, which allows us to enroll as many people as possible.

Dr. Erwin Berthier

Co-Founder of Tasso, Inc.

Understanding the details of this innovative methodology is important when designing a study. Berthier explains that patient-centric sampling, when properly designed, aligns closely with traditional blood collection methods, dispelling previous biases associated with alternative sampling methods. He states, "what we've seen to date is that a lot of what was perceived previously as being potentially biases in other methods of blood sampling are more artifacts of the blood sampling process."

Nevertheless, Berthier does acknowledge certain limitations, particularly the smaller volumes of blood obtained through these methods, which necessitates a more targeted approach to diagnostic testing. He says, "there are a few noticeable exceptions, and we as an industry have to be very open about what works and what doesn't work." As the field continues to innovate, many of these limitations may be removed.

Patient experience is at the heart of patient-centric sampling and is key to driving adherence. Regarding patient experience, Berthier emphasizes the significance of preference over pain scales, "pain scales is an important factor, but it plays into what I would consider a bigger factor, which is preference." Berthier illustrates this point with an example, whereby patients were reluctant to undergo repeat finger-stick tests, which highlights the importance of understanding and catering to patient preferences. He says, "we found that the willingness to do a second test once a first test is done is very low. In the words of one of our partners, 'You can trick a person to do a lancet once. You can't trick a person to do a lancet twice.'" Since many studies require samples at multiple time points, repeatability of the method is important.

Overlooked costs and fears impede access

Berthier highlights the hidden costs and issues associated with traditional blood collection methods, particularly in clinical trials and healthcare practices. He explains, "today, a big part of the cost is hidden and imparted onto the patient. They have to take time off work, and they have to go to the clinic. Those things are barriers to access certain healthcare processes, in particular, in the diagnostic space." To add to this, Berthier outlines the impact on patient participation, stating, "some patients put off doing essential health checkups because of the pain or convenience of the current way things are done." He adds that needle phobia is a large barrier for some patients, which highlights the importance of providing less traumatic and less painful diagnostic options. 

Berthier also spoke about the healthcare and diagnostic-centric perspective, noting the restrictive workflows and reliance on specific networks of phlebotomy centers. He suggests that patient-centric sampling can directly connect patients with new diagnostic technologies, bypassing these limitations and improving access to innovative tests. "Having patient-centric sampling is a method to sort of directly connect these new tests that are being developed with patients to make the access to those easier without relying on business practices that might limit that access." 

A noticeable limitation of the patient-centric approach is that we collect smaller amounts of blood. In fact, this can be beneficial for the patient but means that clinicians and researchers must take a more targeted approach to their analyses.

Dr. Erwin Berthier

Co-Founder of Tasso, Inc.

Streamline workflows with Tasso technology 

Tasso, a leader in revolutionizing patient-centric sampling, offers innovative solutions to longstanding challenges in healthcare practices and clinical trials. 

With Tasso's devices, blood collection can be conducted remotely, eliminating the need for painful venous draws or inconvenient lab visits. The Tasso+ device, utilizes a blood lancet to collect whole liquid blood samples, offering a reliable method for sample collection. Similarly, the Tasso-M20 device can deliver whole dried blood samples from the patient to the lab, making it suitable for applications such as pharmacokinetic (PK) monitoring in clinical trial participants. Beyond devices, an optimized end-to-end logistics platform is available to support turnkey sampling operations, making patient-centric sampling possible for more programs.

Patient-centric sampling in the healthcare landscape

Healthcare is undergoing a transformative shift, moved forward by patient-centric sampling methodologies. Berthier outlines the pivotal role of these approaches in clinical research and healthcare practices, and how they can address long-standing challenges, "they range from academic research, which is very earlier on led by investigators in universities, that then moves on when it gets to larger scales into the pharma industry that then uses decentralized sampling or patient-centric sampling for their clinical trials." 

Looking towards the future, Berthier envisions a two-fold trajectory for the growth of patient-centric sampling. He anticipates a surge in regulatory approvals and the potential for widespread adoption of at-home testing in healthcare settings. He also predicts a shift towards personalized and predictive diagnostics, enabling early detection of diseases and the delivery of tailored interventions.

Patient-centric sampling clearly represents a significant change in healthcare, focusing on improving patient outcomes and preventive care. As these methods gain traction, they have the potential to bring about a new era of precision medicine and make healthcare more accessible to everyone.

Explore the full range of Tasso solutions and learn how your program can take advantage of patient-centric sampling.