November 5, 2021
There's an App for That! How "Intuitive" Tech Is Helping Site Staff Thrive - Lydia Beaudette
Manager of Growth at LMC Manna ResearchGuest
Less is more when it comes to sites, especially considering the list of technology staff are expected to use throughout a clinical trial. From the idea of power users to a bottom-up approach, Lydia Beaudette, manager of growth at LMC Manna Research, discusses her role in implementing new technologies for large site networks against the backdrop of COVID-19 as well as what’s essential evaluating solution partners.
“If you can get the right fit from the beginning, it can make for a much smoother process. Any technology that can be used intuitively and require minimal training is ideal.”
HANNAH: Hello, and welcome to the Totally Clinical Podcast brought to you by Teckro.
Totally Clinical is a deep dive into the freshest trends, big-time challenges, and most excellent triumphs of clinical trials.
I'm Hannah, your host. Join me as I chat with industry experts, trailblazers, thought leaders, and, most importantly, the people benefiting from clinical research.
So tune in, settle back, and don't touch that dial. It's time to get Totally Clinical.
This week, Lydia Beaudette joins us on the podcast. Lydia is manager of Growth at LMC Manna, the largest network, of fully-owned and integrated research sites in Canada. Now, in the age of COVID, we've seen sponsors adopt technology at speed to adapt to the new landscape, and there are a number of challenges that come along with that.
One of Lydia's key areas of focus is integrating these new technologies to set sites up for success. And she's here to explain more about how she makes these crucial decisions around the adoption of new technology. Welcome, Lydia. Now, could you tell me a bit about what your typical day looks like?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: Sure. And it's changed a little bit pre versus post-COVID. Pre-COVID, I often worked on-site at some of our various clinical research sites, assisting with site operations management where I could. And, as COVID has shifted many of us to more of a work-from-home scenario, my role has also shifted.
So it means a lot more online meetings. A lot of my day is taken up by having regular touchpoints or meetings with physicians within our network, specifically if we're working with new therapeutic areas and new investigators, and also working with some of our more veteran physicians, making sure they're fully engaged in research, figuring out how we can tweak the clinical research process to fit their practices better, that kind of thing.
I'm also working on a daily basis with our quality management team within our company, especially when working with new technology adoption. An example of that might be if we've gone through a transition where we bring in e-source and e-regulatory platforms into our operations. So that required a full overhaul of looking at our standard operating processes, looking at our quality management systems, and making sure that everything is still aligning with regulatory guidelines under a new system.
HANNAH: And you're also involved in the recruitment, aren't you?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: On a day-to-day basis, I'm working closely with our business development, our recruitment teams, making sure we have a good fit between what research studies are at what research sites, actively seeking out clinical research trials in therapeutic areas that our physicians are interested in, or molecules that our physicians have interest in, and also helping to think of innovative ways to reach out to patients, to educate patients, and just elevate the place that clinical research plays in the regular person's life.
HANNAH: And how are you going about helping to make that shift from a patient point of view from being seen as someone who is just patient X, say, to being a fully informed participant?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: One of our big focuses within the way that we're reaching out to patients, we really try to focus on educating them about what the clinical trial process is, what responsibilities they may have in a clinical research trial, what the potential pros and cons are and give that a more holistic view of what participating in a research trial may look like. We also promote like a day-in-the-life picture of research trial participants, that kind of outreach activities so that people can feel a bit more comfortable with the idea of being in a research study and get rid of that, quote unquote, "guinea pig" idea of being a research trial participant.
So it really helps to humanize clinical trials, dispel any myths that are out there, especially with the major publicity that clinical research trials have been getting lately with that process through the COVID vaccines, trying to make sure that we have well-informed, well-educated clinical research participants.
HANNAH: One of your key roles is to get buy-in to new technology which must be challenging across such a large site network. Could you explain a bit more about this?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: One of the areas that has presented a lot of challenges recently in the role that I've been playing within LMC Manna Research is the process of evaluating and adopting new technologies into our systems.
We have a very large site network. So we have 23 clinical research sites spread across Canada. We have to work very hard to get buy-in about new technology across all of the end users of that, so whether that would be a research coordinator, or a lab technician, or a research recruiter, a site manager, or a physician.
There's a lot of different use cases for the technology. And we have to make sure that everybody can see that end goal, see how it will help us in the long run and kind of hold hands as we get through the bumpy phase of technology adoption, figure out the quirks, get used to the new workflows, that kind of thing.
Our site staff have a ton of technologies that they interact with on a daily basis working in clinical research. So that could be the electronic data capture systems, the electronic medical records, clinical trial management software, protocol-specific wearable sensors.
It goes on and on, which means that we need a very strong use case in order to bring in a new technology or a new platform. And it's even better if that platform can perform multiple functions.
HANNAH: Could you tell the audience a bit more about best practices to help with technology adoption?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: One thing that we've found helpful to mitigate the challenge of adopting new technology is to set up what we've called power users at each of our sites. So they can be the eyes and ears on the ground, bring forward suggestions for improvement from any team members at their site, provide feedback on if anything is specifically frustrating, or also they can provide good feedback if there's new ways we're doing things that are working well to let us know. Although, sometimes you do have to prompt to get the good feedback. And the natural stuff that you get coming at you is all the negatives.
But that has helped us get through some of those challenges relating to technology adoption at the research site level.
HANNAH: You just touched on technology and adopting it on the ground. Could you tell me a bit about what criteria you use when deciding what technology to use?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: One of our big things we've been looking for in technology is ease of use from multiple locations, especially where remote work and telemedicine have become so prevalent in the last year and a half.
Our physicians, the monitors from the sponsoring companies, they're often completing tasks remotely doing remote monitoring or telemedicine. So working with a technology platform that allows these tasks to be completed remotely allows us to still keep our clinical trials at a very high quality. For example, if an investigator is only on site once a week, they can still keep up with their sign-offs in their review of the clinical trial data on a daily basis instead of just that once a week when they're in.
HANNAH: And how do you decide which companies to work with?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: So we have a big focus on choosing a technology partner that is very aligned with the direction of growth that our company is doing. So we want to see that their group is growing, that their product has expanded over the past couple of years, that the customer service has to be excellent. So we need to be confident that we're going to be able to get answers and responses if the product isn't working as expected, and then as well reaching out to our network of other clinical research sites and research personnel who work with a similar system and getting feedback on how it's performed in real life rather than just what the sales pitch has been saying.
So looking at that track record over the preceding years.
We think it's very important to take time choosing the correct technology partner to avoid having issues down the line where it's not working well or not aligning, or you're not getting the support that you feel that you need. And if you can get the right fit from the beginning, it can make for a much smoother process.
HANNAH: In terms of the technology you use, I guess the more simple, the more clean, that's the kind of thing that benefits staff on the ground.
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: Any technology that can be used intuitively and require minimal training is ideal. Obviously, that is scaled based on the complexity of the work that you have to do within the technology. But we've seen a number of technology vendors within the clinical research space in recent years, tried to really have that focus on building an intuitive to use in a straightforward technology that's fulfilling a clear need.
So Teckro, we've seen produce a product that can be used with minimal training but does bring a high value in the sense that it's allowing for that disconnection from that physical paper protocol and giving us the ability to bring it more on the road and more easily referenced, more specifically. So that intuitive use platform has been very key in terms of what we're looking for when we are approached about a new technology or trying to seek out a new technology.
HANNAH: And I imagine the communication factor, again, plays an important role here.
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: The ability to cross communicate or fulfill more than one function, which is another direction that we've seen Teckro take in terms of the ability to connect people properly, so a site to a research monitor, to a medical monitor, having those communication connections as efficient as possible and as intuitive as possible is something that I think will be really good for clinical research in the long run.
HANNAH: So we've discussed technology, how you choose it, and why. If we can now turn to the role of site staff, what are the obstacles when it comes to introducing them to this new technology?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: Oh, there's many. The main obstacle we see is very simple. It's just a resistance to change. People get comfortable with the system that they're using with the way that they've done things, especially if they've been working in this industry for a long time.
And when something new was introduced, there is a learning curve. There is a duration of time where you have to get used to it and get comfortable to it.
We find that the change resistance is always going to be lower if the technology has minimal technical issues. So that's part of that choosing the right technology area. If the training and onboarding to that technology is stellar, then people will feel more comfortable in that new environment with those new processes. And then, also, just getting buy-in and getting feedback from the end users of that system so they're part of that process of choosing the vendor of giving feedback to them so that it's a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach.
HANNAH: And how has the pandemic affected the take up of technology?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: We have found, with COVID, that we've had to dive into technology adoption quite quickly as opposed to most of the scenarios where it's a more methodical process.
I mean in the span of--
I think we all still remember the week or the couple of days where everything switched from in-person to Zoom and Teams. And telemedicine adoption happened overnight. And patient visits were being done remotely or in hybrid models. And we had patients driving by and sticking their arm out of the car windows to get their blood work done.
It was wild. It was crazy.
And it was very much keep-your-head-above-water, ride-the-wave scenario and an interdependence of all of the different teams to keep up with that. And then we kind of had to do things a little bit backwards, where we then went through the whole process of getting all those technologies functioning well after they had already been implemented because we had to dive in the deep end with them to a certain extent.
HANNAH: And, finally, how do you feel the industry has changed in the last few years?
LYDIA BEAUDETTE: Yeah, it's just interesting when you reflect on the change that the clinical research industry has had. I mean I started in clinical research formally seven years ago.
And then I look at where it is now compared to at that time point. And then I remember when I was starting in clinical research, all of the other coordinators would say, oh, back in the good old days, it used to be paper charts, and we'd be sifting through all these file folders to find our patients. And now it's in electronic medical records. And then, seven years later, now we get all of these artificial intelligence database querying technologies out there that can data mine so much more efficiently.
It's just it's very interesting to look at that piece of change in terms of how we can find clinical research patients, that there's been such a shift in the outlook or framework that clinical research has taken in the past couple of years, where it's very much more of that patient-focused, what's our patient experience. That movement has been very interesting to me. But yes, I just think it's such a fascinating industry and such a high pace of change. And that keeps me hooked.
HANNAH: Thank you, Lydia, for joining me on the podcast today for this discussion about technology adoption on sites. And that's your dose of Totally Clinical. For all the listeners out there, you can follow Teckro on Twitter, the handle is @teckroofficial, LinkedIn, and Facebook. And subscribe to our YouTube channel.
And, of course, download the Totally Clinical Podcast on Apple, Spotify, and Google.
See you on your next visit, and remember to bring your friends.
Thanks for listening. Goodbye.
How Teckro Impacts This Research Site Supervisor’s Day Job