Earlier this year, I read a blog post that highlighted five clinical research trends that bubbled to the surface at last year’s annual conference of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP).
One of the more interesting trends listed was a “growing desire for industry collaboration”. In a business that deals with so many moving parts and people, you’d think that something so basic would already be baked into the process. But the way clinical trials have traditionally been set up—with separate data systems, a reliance on spreadsheets, one-off emails, and on-the-fly decisions—it makes sense that such a baseline competency would get thrown by the wayside.
Poor communication, or no communication at all, among sites, sponsors, and CROs, can lead to problems, including poor site performance that can’t be corrected, serious protocol violations, and adverse events that impact patient safety.
At the ACRP conference, ACRP Executive Director Jim Kremidas commented that, “I can’t tell you how many times professionals representing each part of the clinical trial process have told me they wanted to foster closer relationships with their colleagues.”
Unfortunately, procedural weaknesses aren’t the only things that stand in the way of healthy communication. Many CROs put barriers in place that prevent direct communication between sites and sponsors. The intention behind this kind of turf war may be well-meaning, but the result is often secrecy and frustration that erodes trust.
Technically, Communication Problems Are Easy to Solve
So how can clinical teams facilitate better communication and create a culture of visibility and transparency that leads to trusted partnerships? Such a strategy must start at the top, with directives from executives to unify data and ensure that it’s updated in as near to real time as possible. The key driver should be the fact that when everyone can see the same data at the same time, healthy dialog can take place.
In addition to data unification, solutions that alert stakeholders to issues before they spiral out of control—along with built-in systems that facilitate the assignment of tasks and track appropriate follow up—can help ensure that clinical teams stay on the same page and work towards the same goals.
The technology is in place to empower clinical teams to share information and collaborate for greater performance and efficiency. If team members can buy into the value of transparency, and get over any perception that a buffer zone between any stakeholders is required, they’ll be much more productive and less stressed, and the patients we strive to serve will be the ultimate beneficiaries.
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