Selecting the Right Trials: How Picky Can You Really Be?

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Spoiler alert – the answer is, quite picky!

The current site selection model is flawed: a site’s true potential is stifled when the wrong trials come their way. With a huge portion of trials going to large academic research centers, the remaining majority of sites with experienced, motivated teams feel obligated to accept nearly every opportunity they receive – even the ones that aren’t a match for their team and patients. This shapes a standard of highly qualified sites underperforming due to a mismatched trial fit, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

As a researcher, you have more power than you might think! With emerging tech solutions and increased pressure on sponsors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than ever, you can slide into the driver’s seat for site selection (or really trial selection). There, you’ll find yourself feeling more empowered to bring the right trials to your community – the ones that are truly the best fit for your site and patients.

While it feels counterproductive to refuse opportunities, deciding to take the wheel and be a little more picky and strategic means:

  • Saving time overall by avoiding mismatched trials
  • Establishing your site as a higher performer
  • Creating a stronger track record to reliably get more of the trials you want
  • Avoiding added headaches and distractions that come with trying to keep up with poorly matched trials

Here are three steps you can take to promote site selection success while taking a more strategic, choosy approach:

Step 1: Be proactive in determining the trials your site will excel most in.

When a new trial opportunity opens up, you don’t always have the details to make an informed decision quickly. However, by doing proactive work to establish with your team the criteria of what a right-fit trial looks like, that decision can become quicker and more informed. To take the driver’s seat and be more selective, consider these questions: 

  1. What do my local patients need most and when in terms of trial opportunities?
  2. What kinds of trials do my Principal Investigators and Sub-Investigators have the most successful experience in?
  3. What size and scope of trials do I have the patient population to support?
  4. Where could I contribute to the inclusion of underrepresented patient populations that would help sponsors achieve diversity goals?
  5. What protocol components have proven most challenging for my site in the past?
  6. What trial phases are my team members best at supporting?
  7. What disease areas do I have the best community connections or programs to screen and recruit patients for?

Your answers are the compass to navigating the decision-making process more strategically. Some sponsor criteria are absolutes, so when the answers to these questions indicate a trial might not be the right fit, moving on to other opportunities is likely to be a more valuable use of time. However, even when rejection feels likely, rejecting any trial opportunity can still feel like the wrong move. The next step? Looking outside the box to stand out to sponsors and ensure when the right trial comes your way, you can be confident you’ll be selected.

Step 2: Identify new ways to help your site stand out to sponsors for the trials you want most.

While trial experience, historical performance, and staff CV data are all still important, these aren’t the only ways to showcase your site’s abilities.

Historically, sponsors have selected sites using black and white site data that fail to tell the full story. These traditional data sources limit site selection to the same 5% of sites. It’s a system that fails everyone – and at the end of the day, the patients are the ones missing out the most.

When applying for trials, consider showcasing your site in “full color.” Leverage site solutions – such as Inato’s free clinical trial marketplace where sites find and apply to trials – to include more insights, such as:

  • Community engagement initiatives
  • Your unique local patient populations
  • How your facilities are adapted (or any special programs) to enable easier access for all patients
  • Your research team members’ representation of their community
  • Additional context around your capabilities, temporary limitations, facilities, staff experience, etc.

By taking advantage of free tools like Inato, you can utilize more opportunities to get these attributes right in front of the sponsor. Additionally, Inato’s free site advocates provide coaching sessions to elevate trial applications and then fight for your selection when there’s a strong fit.

Step 3: Consider how your site can shine even brighter through diversity or community engagement.

New FDA guidance and pending regulations around trial representation, community-based sites, and their trusted community relationships will play increasingly crucial roles in clinical research. That means the more you can proactively form relationships with those in your community, the more you can reliably unlock access to more patients for top sponsors (and include more patients in research).

To take active steps toward building robust relationships and ensuring you can succeed when it comes time to recruit for a trial, think about implementing programs like:

  • Sponsoring local sports teams
  • Hosting free physician Q&As, clinics, and info sessions
  • Having a presence at core community events
  • Partnering with local non-profits and community health organizations
  • Joining local boards and volunteer organizations

For more tips on leveraging your abilities as a community site, explore Inato’s free eGuidebookPowering Up the Community” for seven unique advantages community research sites should be maximizing to get selected by top sponsors, including:

  1. Unlock Access to Diverse and Underrepresented Patient Populations
  2. Build a Team That Represents Your Community
  3. Establish Relationships with Local Patients and the Community
  4. Demonstrate Your Motivation and Commitment
  5. Lean Into the Proximity and Convenience of Being Local
  6. Embrace Your Ability to be Agile and Flexible
  7. Invest in Ways to Boost Patient Trust and Retention

Inato’s free marketplace gives sites the chance to take these steps and be more strategic about which trials they bring to their patients. After signing up, sites gain access to top sponsor trials and have the opportunity to apply to the ones that are right for them, showcasing holistic attributes to stand out to sponsors and boosting their chances of getting selected.

Start building your trial pipeline today.

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