Site engagement is a true buzzword in clinical trials today, and rightly so! According to research in 2016 by the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI), some 40% of sites drop out of clinical trials. This is an alarming statistic, and even more shocking when considering a simple lack of engagement from sponsors is a key factor in many of these cases.
When it comes to site engagement, the clue really is in the name! When sites are kept engaged, they feel more invested in the outcomes of the trial and therefore being driven to improve statistics and increase performance. More specifically, an effective engagement strategy can drive increases in important metrics like patient enrolment and retention, operational efficiency, and compliance with protocol. Keeping sites engaged also ensures that your trial stays at the front of the minds of site staff and takes priority over activities related to other trials the site may be involved in. When sites feel engaged, informed and supported, they are more committed and invested in the outcome of the trial, increasing the potential for success.
The means through which we communicate and engage with sites have been slow to adapt to 21st century advances in technology, but there is an increasing acceptance amongst industry professionals that technology holds the key to improving communication, engagement and site performance. In today’s connected world, it seems absurd that site staff could be enjoying all of the benefits of instant online communications to maintain relationships in their personal lives, but not in their work where it could be most useful.
Historically, the extent of site communication and engagement has, for many sponsors, been limited to weekly or even monthly emails to sites, and this is still the case for much of the industry today. However, technology is providing opportunity for constant, effective two-way communication between sites and sponsors, and this should be embraced if the full benefits of site engagement are to be realised. For sites to develop a sense of ownership over the trial, and sponsors to notice enhancements in performance and compliance, communication needs to go beyond simply sending out the required information.
Here are some strategies you could apply technology to better engage with your sites:
· Use an online portal to centralize site communication and information and develop a network for all sites.
· Ensure that using technology can be incorporated seamlessly into sites’ daily activity by using a simple interface that’s easy to access and login.
· Use virtual rewards to congratulate sites and staff on achieving key milestones in the trial and ensure achievements are celebrated across sites in newsletters and other communications.
· Promote a team-working atmosphere across sites through promoting campaigns. One Pharma-company, for example, encouraged site staff to wear orange in support of ‘Melanoma Monday’ and photos were shared between sites through online networks.
· Incorporate training and advice sections on your network to increase compliance with protocol and minimize disruptions to the trial.
· Encourage a friendly rivalry between sites by encouraging them to compete over performance in key metrics.