The importance of structured data for clinical trial search

Maneuvering clinical trial listings can be a daunting task for any patient. In fact, searching for trials has become more and more difficult over the years, largely due to increasingly stringent eligibility requirements. That’s why we created Antidote Match, the first trial matching engine that uses structured data and proprietary algorithms to explore a patient’s eligibility for every trial.

At Antidote, we're dedicated to matching patients to trials that are right for them, and structured data that is semantically encoded is a key component helping us fulfill our mission. 

How to make sense of unstructured data

Everyone has access to clinical trials listings via, where you can see eligibility criteria, published in a free-form text format. However, free-form text is unstructured data that is difficult to organize and analyze in terms of how one piece of data relates to or compares to another. Using unstructured data to match patients to clinical trials with any degree of rigor is, at best, challenging.

“Structured data, on the other hand, is organized and can be coded for consistent meaning (semantics). Structured data can be searched with algorithms, and with use of medical ontologies, the algorithm can infer context, just as humans do,” says Tom Krohn, Antidote’s Chief Development Officer, in an Association of Clinical Research Professionals blog. Here’s an example of the type of inference structured data allows: if an exclusion criteria is “no autoimmune disease,” one can infer that a patient with rheumatoid arthritis would be ineligible. 

The use of semantic technologies (ontologies) with structured eligibility criteria consistently across all studies allows machines to do what they do best: process lots of data very quickly. Structured data allows algorithms to hone in on relevant studies for patients with speed (and accuracy).

The importance of structured data for patients

Antidote encodes eligibility criteria using industry-standard medical ontologies. “Once the data are structured and encoded, algorithms can be applied to match a patient to clinical trials based on their answers to eligibility questions,” says Krohn. The result? Rather than a long list of results, patients receive a personalized list of a few trials for which they may be eligible.

Once a patient matches with a trial through a matching platform, there’s still a major hurdle to understanding what a listing means. While listings provide resources to find out more about each relevant study, the public information is often confusing. This is because the information has been placed in the public domain through the lens of scientific research, not for patient comprehension. Another key component in the presentation of results, then, is patient-friendly study language. This way, people searching for trials can understand the meanings of essential terms to look out for when reading a listing or study page

Helping patients take action

Once patients have found trials that fit their needs and understand their options through friendly language, sponsors and clinical recruitment organizations have an important role in helping them take action to get involved.

At Antidote, we provide patients with critical information as they consider a clinical trial — and point them in the right direction if they decide they’d like to take part. One way we do this is by creating helpful content for patients. In this guide for patients, we go back to the basics and talk about all things clinical trials — including how and why patients should think about participating. In this blog post, we break down key questions to ask the study team before signing an informed consent agreement. We also want to make sure patients get to know who they’ll meet at a clinical trial site visit before they arrive. Patients equipped with knowledge about the clinical trials process feel more empowered and compelled to participate in research.

Antidote is on a mission to accelerate the breakthroughs of new treatments by bridging the gap between medical research and the people who need it. Our approach to clinical trial recruitment saves sponsors recruitment time, while providing a positive trial search experience for patients.