There is a growing expectation that clinical trial sites should be tech-enabled, based on experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and even earlier. However, a 2021 survey found that 43% of sites still avoid digital adoption for various reasons.
“The technology burden at sites has become increasingly frustrating for our staff,” says Lydia Beaudette, MSc, ACRP-PM, MBA(c), director of growth and strategic partnerships at Centricity Research. “There are often multiple platforms, which can differ by sponsor, leaving our clinical research coordinators (CRCs) drowning in passwords for access to the various portals.”
“Consolidating technologies is a priority at sites, contract research organizations, and sponsors alike, but the interests of these stakeholder groups do not always align,” adds Beaudette. “We need to take a careful look at how best to evaluate, implement, and re-evaluate technology use at all stages of the trial and patient journey. This will inform a technology strategy to help leverage platforms to work for our site staff rather than against them.”
Evaluating Technology Solutions
When considering value-add tech options, Beaudette highlights three features to watch out for:
- A platform model, with one system serving multiple functions and cross-talking systems
- Availability of excellent customer service, training, and onboarding support for the new technology
- The ability for site staff to provide input and adjust the technology to fully meet site needs
The technology evaluation process should be carried out by a team including end-users (such as CRCs or investigators), specialized users (such as regulatory specialists, accountants), external users (such as clinical research associates/monitors), and patients, if applicable. There should be an assessment of the user experience and user interface; the system performance, backups, and compliance; the direction of the technology partner’s growth; the availability of the development team to work with the site; and evidence of continuous improvement.
Join Lydia at ACRP 2023 [April 28 – May 1; Dallas, TX], where you’ll be guided through recommendations for developing a technology strategy that can help to leverage platforms to work for you rather than against you. View complete schedule.
“During a transition to new technology, it’s important to capitalize on ways to improve efficiency and quality, rather than applying a linear process that simply takes the paper form and makes it electronic,” shares Beaudette. “Factors such as workforce allocation and the need for patient input should also be taken into account.”
Beaudette identifies the following structure and support elements as being key to a major shift in technology adoption at the site level:
- A dedicated internal project team to carry out process mapping and scoping, revisit standard operating procedures (SOPs), and determine how to enact beyond linear change
- Change champions and “power users” within each site or department to drive buy-in
- An active feedback cycle
- A clear change management process definition
- Effective internal, SOP-specific training, in addition to onboarding training from the tech company
“These efforts can pay dividends in reducing the burden of adopting technology at site level,” concludes Beaudette. “In parallel, they can support marketing efforts to sponsors, highlighting the site’s full enablement for remote monitoring and faster access to multiple data types.”
Author: Jill Dawson