Demonstrating clinical utility for diagnostic tests and securing coverage and reimbursement requires high quality and, ideally, randomized controlled trial (RCT) data. Traditional RCTs are often too costly, slow, and cumbersome for diagnostic firms. Alternative data options are needed. We evaluated four RCTs using virtual patients to demonstrate clinical utility. Each study used a similar pre-post intervention, two round design to facilitate comparison. Representative samples of physicians were recruited and randomized into control and intervention arms. All physicians were asked to care for their virtual patients during two assessment rounds, separated by a multi-week time interval. Between rounds, intervention physicians reviewed educational materials on the diagnostic test. All physician responses were scored against evidence-based care criteria. RCTs using virtual patients can demonstrate clinical utility for a variety of diagnostic test types, including: (1) an advanced multi-biomarker blood test, (2) a chromosomal microarray, (3) a proteomic assay analysis, and (4) a multiplex immunofluorescence imaging platform. In two studies, utility was demonstrated for all targeted patient populations, while in the other two studies, utility was only demonstrated for a select sub-segment of the intended patient population. Of these four tests, two received positive coverage decisions from Palmetto, one utilized the study results to support commercial payer adjudications, and the fourth company went out of business. RCTs using virtual patients are a cost-effective approach to demonstrate the presence or absence of clinical utility.
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