Mutual Empathy Can Boost Clinical Trial Performance

M. Sophy Yohannan, MBBS, CCRC, CRA II, Northeast Region, Boston Scientific

Site and sponsor personnel might want to consider dusting off their dictionary if they wish to improve relations with each other during a clinical trial, suggests M. Sophy Yohannan, MBBS, CCRC, a CRA II for the Northeast Region with Boston Scientific.

Her point: We too often mistake empathy for sympathy when trying to work with folks in other parts of the clinical trial infrastructure. To Yohannan, sympathy is obviously a fine personal quality, but it will only take you so far in a professional realm. “Sympathy is about looking at something from afar and feeling pity,” she says. “Empathy is a little more difficult to do” because it involves taking a little time to get inside the shoes of the other person, she adds.

It’s time well spent, Yohannan stresses. Sponsors and sites should set aside some time at the beginning of their projects to get to know each other a bit in terms of professional goals, experience, and philosophy, she says. Many of the professionals at her shop at Boston Scientific have “worked on both sides of the fence,” so it’s relatively easy to remember what it was like to be working on a clinical trial from a different vantage point, she notes.

However, if empathy doesn’t come naturally, or you don’t have relevant experience in the “other side’s” bailiwick, Yohannan advises setting aside a little extra time to get to know each other. “Find out about their current role, what they did before, and how comfortable they are with what’s expected of them in this study,” she says. It’s critical to find out and recognize the goals and deadlines of the person you’ll be working with, she adds.

FREE for ACRP Members—Building Relationships & Collaboration: Sponsors and Sites

How would you describe your CRC-CRA relationship? Do you see opportunities to improve your communication and collaboration? Then this webinar is for you! Yohannan invites all CRCs, CRAs, Project Managers, Regulatory Liaisons, and other study personnel to join this webinar for a review of our responsibilities and a discussion of these relationship. Feedback from high performing sites on strategies for collaboration and relationship building will be shared and open forum for discussion provided.

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Another tip: Be responsive. Nothing undermines mutual trust and support more than failing to respond to queries or other communications in a timely manner, Yohannan says. “One of the top frustrations” expressed by both sides is when they’re left hanging after reaching out. “It feels like a lack of respect” if you don’t respond to someone on the other end of the trial, she notes. Don’t let lack of knowledge slow down your response, she advises. “Saying you don’t know but will find out is a valid response,” she explains.

Of course, you ultimately need to follow up with the response, too. Reach out to a manager or subject matter expert. “Take the time to dig and get the answer,” Yohannan says. The recipient will appreciate it, she notes, and will be more inclined to show you the same kind of high-quality treatment.

Finally, don’t lose sight of the big picture when it comes to why you became a clinical trial professional in the first place. “We all share the same goal,” Yohannan says. “We’re all here to advance patient treatments with evidence,” she notes. Sponsors and sites can gently remind each other of the fact throughout a trial to help lay the foundation for a smoother, more efficient, and ultimately more successful outcome.

Author: Michael Causey