The relationship between site and trial sponsor is central in facilitating the success of any clinical trial. Trial sponsors and sites both want to ensure the success of a clinical study. However, in spite of being aligned on their goals, the relationship between sponsor and site can be fraught with difficulty for a number of reasons. This can include delayed payments, a lack of study opportunities, or simply a failure to meet timelines.
For years, sites and sponsors alike have struggled with slow inefficient processes which can put a strain on their working relationship. However, a number of new technologies for the clinical trial industry could mean some of these issues can be overcome, therefore fostering better relationships between trial sponsors and investigative sites.
Site Payment Platforms
The traditional site payments process is inefficient, time-consuming and can cause unnecessary damage to a relationship between a site and trial sponsor. Using traditional payment methods, investigate sites can wait months for payment for their activities. When payments do come through, there can be discrepancies which require extra administrative work to deal with. All of this adds up to a lack of resources, dissatisfaction and wasted time and energy for sites. In some cases, a poor payment process experience could lead to the site not working with the sponsor for future trials. Therefore, the trial sponsor loses access to a potentially valuable patient population.
There are a number of ways the payment process can be improved based on the capabilities introduced by improved and new technologies. One solution is for trial sponsors to integrate their site payment systems with the other data systems in their clinical trial. If the systems are linked then payments can be triggered by specific study and budget milestones. This could potentially reduce the number of errors in payments. The use of EDC systems is now widespread and so by integrating your EDC and payments systems, site payments can be triggered automatically rather than manually raising invoices. Payments can be automatically generated through EDC data because the completion of certain milestones can be indicated by the number of data sources.
There are also now a number of specialist payment platforms which are end-to-end solutions that automatically calculate the cost of work and reimburse sites accordingly. Platforms like these not only increase the accuracy of payments but also the transparency of costs. Providing trial sponsors and sites with shared access to an online platform allows for better tracking and sharing of payments information, increasing trust between the partners.
The capabilities of trial analytics software are forever increasing and the possibilities are extremely exciting in terms of reducing inefficiencies in studies and enabling trial sponsors to work with their site partners more effectively. One of the most common ways to use this software is to analyze how sites have performed for you in your past studies. By aggregating data from previous trials, sponsors can examine various metrics that tell the story of which sites were most valuable for recruitment and which were less active. By using this data to optimize site selection, trial sponsors could potentially save a large chunk of resources.
Beyond this, integrating predictive analytics software into your clinical trial operations makes it easier to decipher how sites are performing remotely in real-time so you can better manage your global clinical trials. By using this software to determine which sites are performing poorly versus which are meeting targets, you can focus your efforts and resources on working mainly with under-performing sites to improve recruitment rates, protocol adherence, etc.
For trial sponsors managing several global clinical trials in far-off locations, video-conferencing software offers them a way to maintain a face-to-face relationship with their investigative sites throughout the trial. Video-conferencing has a number of potential applications, from performing site initiations to getting patient consent and facilitating ‘siteless’ clinical trials. Video conferencing can also be used to make training sessions more interactive and effective and imparting information more efficiently. Maintaining a face-to-face relationship with investigators will also ensure that they are engaged not only at the beginning of the study but for the duration of the trial.
While these new technologies open a variety of opportunities for sponsors and sites to improve their relationships and operational processes, it is still important not to underestimate the value of face-to-face meetings and other traditional ways of working. Comments taken as part of various industry surveys and interviews suggest that some sites are concerned that implementing new technologies will actually increase their workload by having to train staff, filter valuable resources into the new systems and so forth. With so many promising innovations on the market, it can be difficult to decide what to implement and which will result in the greatest positive effect in comparison to the time and resources invested. Therefore, while technologies can facilitate better relations between sites and sponsors by overcoming some of the day-to-day operational challenges they face, the first step to ensuring a good relationship is still old-fashioned communication, understanding each other’s capabilities, and setting clear expectations.