CROs have come to realize that regular engagement with investigative sites is critical to study success.

Increasingly, access to high quality investigative sites has become more competitive. This limited access contributes to more costs to CROs related to site identification, selection and training. The increasingly competitive landscape confirms the critical need for CROs to focus on establishing valuable and steady sit engagement practices.

Even before a study starts, CROs can encourage engagement among trial sites and staff to develop a sense of ownership, and lead to an increase in momentum toward completing a trial successfully. Inspiring friendly competition between sites will add to the collective impetus to drive a study forward.

Once a study has begun, CROs can distribute a study-wide newsletter on a recurring basis, for example, to give them the ability to publicly recognize the efforts made by sites. Highlighting and recognizing the metrics from a high-enrolling Investigator validates and engages the site, and provides a key performance metric for all other sites to strive toward. Opportunities for increased site engagement extend past regular and more frequent communication. A CRO can implement an automated payment system and provide an adequate explanation of each payment, for example, to ensure sites receive timely payments and don’t spend extra time hunting down additional support documentation.

But the process of engaging clinical sites on a regular basis is not limited to the duration of the study; CROs are looking to expand these relationships in the interim between projects as a means to maintain strong partnerships. Establishing regular collaboration among site and CRO staff provides a platform to identify common issues faced by Investigators and site personnel, and develop actionable plans to overcome these obstacles.

Principal Investigators increasingly are recognized as key contributors to the overall design of a trial. Soliciting input from Investigators and site staff early in the development phase will lead to optimized study efficiencies throughout a program. Affording the opportunity for an Investigator to weigh in on the study protocol ensures that the operational aspects of the trial will align with common processes at their site, and will provide valuable input related to inclusion/exclusion criteria that will ultimately improve the patient experience and drive study enrollment.

CROs committed to maintaining a site-centric model, focus on providing ample tools and resources to allow Investigators the opportunity to provide value to patients. In turn, Investigators are more inclined to work with CROs that actively look for ways to enable a patient-centric experience by seeking feedback from sites and implementing processes to decrease site burden. Recognizing the pivotal role of Investigators as a fundamental connection to a desired patient population, is a key step toward streamlining the drug development process and optimizing clinical trial efficiency.

The increased focus on patient-centricity in clinical research is another area where the CRO-site relationship can be important. Realizing the importance of patient-focused trials, CROs are working cooperatively with sites to implement measures that focus on improving the patient experience.

Brittany Parker is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Total Clinical Trial Management. She works closely with research sites and study staff to execute current programs and develop ongoing, long-term relationships.

This article was originally published April 16,2018 in CenterWatch Weekly