Clinical trials are no different. Yet technology adoption by sponsors and CROs has been slow, making clinical trial conduct curiously old-fashioned.
Then, COVID-19 hit and changed everything. Both sponsors and CROs had to rapidly adapt to run trials safely remotely. Now we see that communication by and with study teams, site personnel and patients is essential. With the right communication on a steady basis, we see that engagement with the trials by both research staff and participants increases.
Let’s look more at this idea of unlocking site engagement.
Site engagement is at the heart of everything that counts when it comes to clinical trials. Engagement comes from meaningful and regular conversations between teams, and effective relationships and high morale are crucial for clinical trial success.
The engagement of site staff is especially important when running multi-site trials where performance and operations across sites can vary. This can impact patient retention, compliance and even trial endpoints. Overall, the benefits of high-level site engagement have positive knock-on effects on every stage of the clinical trial process and cannot be emphasized enough.
Let’s have a further look at why improved site engagement is important for clinical trials:
Some quick points about what effective site engagement is not:
Effective engagement starts with awareness of the needs and challenges of the different research staff roles. For example, a principal investigator and a study monitor both have time pressures. The investigator has just a few minutes to consider several protocols to identify the best clinical trial for a given diagnosis. A clinical research associate (CRA), on the other hand, has time pressures in that she or he is responsible for several studies and needs to know the latest data, how all of the studies are progressing, and any relevant changes that require action. Both groups need access to the information they require, and to communicate with the right people without friction.
This is where the Teckro Digital Engagement Platform can boost site engagement. Here are just a few examples:
It can be difficult for study teams when they don’t have an overview of what’s happening across sites. With Teckro, we have built-in analytics that provides insights so study teams can gauge engagement with their study and also assess potential risks. For example, we have seen that a high rate of interaction with Teckro Search at the enrollment phase is a good measure of whether a given site is on track to meet recruitment targets.
Additionally, Teckro provides insights into communication effectiveness. It’s not enough to just send target messages - study teams want to know that the message is actually being consumed. Here the Teckro platform provides visibility into message open rates. Everyone on the study team has central access to the same dashboard so that there is a trackable chain of communication across study team members. This built-in visibility means Teckro’s platform provides the crucial insight necessary to measure effectiveness and understand site engagement.
During clinical trials, urgent questions need answering without delay. The problem is that email and/or telephone take time. Teckro Connect creates a virtual, dedicated group with site staff and study experts so that research personnel immediately start conversations. This feature can speed time to resolution because the first member who sees the message can jump in and answer. The time zone is no longer an issue because there’s a team of experts on-hand rather than just one, and no go-between is required to pass the message on.
Accessing the protocol quickly and easily is important for site staff to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. But for so long it has been difficult for them to access up-to-date versions of the protocol because they have been stored in files on dusty old shelves or slow desktop computers. Teckro Search means that at the touch of a button, site staff can get answers to the information they’re looking for, instantly. This may sound pretty straightforward considering the technological advancements over the last couple of decades. But clinical trials have been slow on the uptake so to be able to access the protocol so efficiently via smartphone or other digital devices is a game changer for site engagement.
Research staff and monitors can use Teckro Engage for relevant timely guidance and updates. They can tailor messages with granular segmentation, targeting individual roles, countries, sites or even specific individuals. This is effective when it comes to site engagement as busy staff have a single system through which to find all communication rather than using outdated methods of communication. Furthermore, push notifications to smartphones draws attention to these messages, helping increase the chance of reading them because the messages are consolidated in one place.
For the younger generations, technology is a natural part of how they live their lives. So it seems strange that they’re required to access the protocol via a portal or an email and use a go-between to have an urgent question answered by an expert.
Rapid access to study-related information by site staff, CRAs and study experts at the touch of a button; is not a luxury, but essential. I’m optimistic that the fast-paced uptake of technology will continue, resulting in high-level site engagement and better trial outcomes. But at the same time, we should not take our eye off the ball because as the saying goes, old habits die hard!