Clinical Research Sites: You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure

Kristina Lopienski
August 3rd, 2017

When it comes to clinical research, how is your site performing? What are your site’s strengths? Where is your site trying to improve? Is your site improving?

To answer these questions, do you use real data or your gut instinct? While an anecdotal response may seem sufficient, sites that rely on experience alone are missing a valuable opportunity to improve their operations and gain a competitive advantage. Consider the next set of more specific questions about your site’s performance.

  • How long does it take your site on average to activate a study?
  • Which steps of the study activation process slow down your site?
  • Which of your protocols need help meeting enrollment goals?
  • Which protocols are most successful at accruing subjects for a given demographic?
  • How much staff effort will it take to activate a particular study?
  • Which protocols use the most staff effort but deliver the least accruals?

Are you able to quickly and confidently answer these questions? If not, there’s a good chance you’re not tracking metrics in an effective or efficient manner.

Why use metrics?

Data is powerful, and without it, you don’t know how your site is doing. Maybe you’ve heard the following quotes before:

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” 
– Attributed to Peter Drucker

“You cannot change what you cannot measure.”
– W. Edwards Deming

In other words, if you measure something, you can improve it. And unless you measure something, you don’t know if it is getting better – or worse. Yet, fear of uncovering poor performance should not prevent you from using metrics. In some cases, what you don’t know can hurt you, and if you don’t know your history, you may be doomed to repeat it. Sites that take control of their performance by objectively measuring it will know whether or not they are successful.

How can sites use metrics?

By tracking metrics, you can establish baselines and set goals for your site. However, you won’t improve something simply by measuring it; you must implement changes to bring forth improvements. Sites can move the needle in their performance, even if it’s incremental. Using performance metrics, sites can:

  • Identify where process improvements can be made
  • Identify where resource allocations can be changed
  • Effectively manage workload across teams and plan more effectively
  • Provide data-driven rationale to leadership for additional resources
  • Ease budgetary constraints and make better use of limited resources
  • Make informed decisions to determine on which trials they will be successful
  • Spot trends and patterns

To turn insight into action, sites can brainstorm potential solutions by bringing several minds together to think of ideas and interventions that could be part of a performance improvement initiative. Once ready to implement the solution(s) and monitor performance, sites must make sure their goals are not too broad but are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. After the improvement efforts are underway, sites should continue to monitor performance and make adjustments as needed.

What can be improved by metrics?

There are endless metrics you can track to gauge your site’s performance in everything from monitoring patient enrollment to managing staff effort. Meaningful metrics are those that both surprise and confirm, answer the question you are asking, and lead to needed change. Sites can adjust internal processes to produce the desired outcome and use the data in conversations with leadership, funders and staff to assess their portfolio and resources, determine needs and strategically plan next steps.

Forte Insights provides sophisticated dashboards to help large research centers gain actionable, strategic insights to improve operations. The visualizations can immediately identify strengths and weaknesses, where to focus resources, which trials are at risk, and many other answers to strategic questions. Using past performance metrics and an in-depth understanding of current state of affairs to project future outcomes, they can make timely decisions about their program and portfolio.

Learn more about Forte Insights

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