While clinical research is the foundation of safe innovation and supported development, one of its main restraints is that the results come from a controlled environment. The purpose of clinical trials is that despite the constraints, the results are meant to be generalizable to the relevant population. However, data derived from a controlled environment is a result of many inclusions and exclusions due to research method restraints, meaning it doesn’t always seamlessly translate to real-world application.
Real-world evidence (RWE) attempts to mend this gap in clinical research by using real-world data (RWD) to bridge, emphasize, support, or contest clinical research results. Here’s an overview of real-world evidence, the top industries and companies hiring RWE professionals, and how to start your career in this incredibly dynamic field.
What Is Real-World Evidence?
Real-world evidence is the culmination of real-world data gathered and analyzed outside of a controlled environment to evaluate usage and potential benefits or risks of a medical product. These findings provide real-world, actionable insights into products, like vaccines, and services, like medical procedures. First utilized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enhance the safety and efficacy of their practices, real-world evidence is now used in various industries that compile data to come to data-driven conclusions.
The advantages of RWE are vast. For example, since the general population is diverse and more unpredictable than a controlled clinical trial, RWE helps bridge the gap between clinical research results and real-world application. It can also provide new insights that enhance and improve the findings of clinical trials. The major disadvantage of RWE, however, is the potential of generating findings from biased, low-quality data. To combat this problem, real-world evidence leaders need more highly trained professionals, well-versed in RWE methods that can properly adjust for potential bias.
Top Industries Hiring Real-World Evidence Professionals
While RWE is most relevant to the life sciences and healthcare industry, there are four sectors of business that predominantly use these novel methods. Professionals looking for a quick entry into the field could consider a career in one of the following industries.
1. Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
The professional, scientific, and technical services industry, while broad, offers these services to other businesses. For RWE, there are entire divisions specialized in providing professional, scientific, and technical services to support the life sciences and healthcare industry. Within these divisions, there are several specialized fields that emphasize hiring RWE professionals, including:
- Consulting services
- Contract research services
- Diagnostics and laboratory information management services
- Marketing and advertising services
Professional services firms with RWE professionals will specialize in training within research and development in physical, engineering, and life sciences. A career in research and development often applies RWE principles and practices into determining a medical product’s safety and efficacy. As a result, there are a number of supporting professional, scientific, and technical services that can work together to improve through data analysis and RWE methods.
2. Healthcare and Social Assistance
The healthcare and social assistance industry provides care and resource services for the general population. RWE is directly applicable to healthcare and social assistance because it provides tangible data on how to better serve patients.
RWE is most well-known in the healthcare industry, especially for its uses in electronic health records and health data management to gather conclusions from real-world patients and provide better healthcare services. Healthcare generates an abundance of patient-level data for RWE professionals to request access to, therefore those interested in working in this field can expect a stable career path supporting this growing industry.
3. Educational Services
The educational services industry encompasses all services meant to provide training and education to the general population. Much like healthcare, the educational services industry is part of the ecosystem supporting RWE professionals. Educators provide formal training programs to credential RWE professionals. Furthermore, research-driven institutions of higher education are actively pioneering the latest RWE methods for professionals to apply in their work.
4. Finance and Insurance
The finance and insurance industry is composed of establishments that overlook financial transactions. Health insurance claims are a major source of real-world data. Individuals working for health insurance providers will have a seat at the table in one of the largest systems of health information informing RWE studies.
Top Companies Hiring Real-World Evidence Professionals
Within these four large industries, certain companies hire more RWE professionals than others. If you’re looking for a job in RWE, here are the top five types of companies to apply to.
- Pharmaceutical: Pharmaceutical companies research, innovate, develop, validate, and market medicinal drugs. In every step of the process —pre-production to post-production—real-world evidence can be used to cut costs, increase safety, and ensure drug efficacy. It is also crucial in bridging the gap between clinical drug trials and real-world application.
- Regulatory Authorities: Regulatory authorities are in charge of validating commercially whether available food and drugs are safe and effective for public consumption. The RWE discipline was originally developed by the FDA to gather real-world evidence, and continues to be the leader in developing best practices with the help of RWE.
- Health Insurance Providers: Health insurance providers use RWE to increase the accuracy of their financial predictions and planning, therefore offering better services and advice to their clients.
- Technology Companies: Technology companies use RWE similarly to pharmaceutical companies. It helps with pre-development market research and continuous post-sales improvement.
- Consulting Groups: Consulting groups can use RWE for all of the above for their clients who want more real-world application in their business recommendations.
Depending on your experiences and interests, some companies will stand out more than others. However, if you decide to go down the RWE career path, the choices are limitless.
Choosing Your Real-World Evidence Career Path
RWE is an exciting career with an abundance of growth opportunities in various industries. While exciting, this can make prospective RWE professionals apprehensive about choosing the right career path according to their interests and professional aspirations.
Kristin Kostka, the director of the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) Center at Northeastern University’s Roux Institute, suggests asking, “What are you most excited about? I ask that all the time. When I network with students, I say, what do you like to do? While I know it sounds silly, it’s hard to pick an industry if you don’t know what you like to do.”
As a diverse career path, RWE offers a unique opportunity to discover, and ultimately pursue, a career that matches professionals’ interests and aspirations. If a career in real-world evidence is something that interests you, consider obtaining the right skills, experience, and education first. Earning a master’s degree in this highly specialized field, such as Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health and Sciences’ Master of Science in Real-World Evidence in Healthcare and Life Sciences program, can build your RWE tool kit and help you stand out to prospective employers in the field.
To kickstart your RWE career, check out Northeastern’s MS in Real-World Evidence program, and download the ebook to learn more.