Make the Case for Data Specialists to Relieve CRCs, Boost Trial Profits

Suzanne Rose

Suzanne Rose, MS, PhD, CCRC, FACRP, Director of the Office of Research, Stamford Hospital

It’s relatively simple to convince sponsors to fund a clinical research coordinator (CRC) position when budgeting for a trial because “there are dollars directly attached to the role,” notes Suzanne Rose, MS, PhD, CCRC, FACRP, director of the Office of Research at Stamford Hospital.

Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy to convince the trial funder to add other roles such as data specialists, financial analysts, regulatory experts, or research pharmacists, Rose says. Sponsors don’t tend to readily see how the investment in those roles pays dividends down the line—and yet, on a number of levels, they do pay off, she adds.

Sites must do a better job of making the case for non-CRC slots when budgeting a clinical trial, Rose says. For example, she’s made a concerted effort to get data specialists built into the trial’s financial infrastructure at the very beginning. “Do sponsors always approve it? No, but I’d say we get it approved about 75% of the time now,” she notes.

Even though the data specialist role isn’t directly attached to significant revenue, its presence can free up CRCs to become more effective—and profitable—Rose says. “Studies show CRCs spend about 25% of their time on data,” she explains. “Free them up from it, and they’ll have more time to enroll more patients and conduct more trials.”

In addition, data specialists tend to produce cleaner and more timely data than their CRC counterparts. It’s not a criticism of CRCs, Rose notes, but more the simple fact that a data specialist focuses like a laser on data while a CRC has to fit it in while working on a number of different trials and demands.

Further, in some situations, data specialist can actually produce their own revenue, Rose says. For example, in some registry trials with limited patient follow up, when the practitioner is mostly mining electronic medical records, a data specialist can be leveraged to produce some black ink on the ledger, she advises.

Rose also likes to use the data specialist as something of an entry-level position in the clinical trial workforce. “Few want to do it for their entire careers, but they can be trained to move into finance or another” aspect of clinical trials, she notes.

Author: Michael Causey