Technology has become a critical part of clinical research and is now a requirement for organizations looking to conduct innovative research. However, a negative experience with a particular system can cause mixed feelings about using new technologies.
Some of these misgivings became clear during a 2017 MAGI East workshop, where attendees and presenters alike shared their experiences with clinical trial systems from various perspectives. Throughout this discussion, a common thread emerged: Many of the issues individuals encountered during purchasing, implementation and daily system use seem to be preventable.
In her workshop presentation, Orla Mester, Senior VP of Operations at Forte Research Systems, explained how a technology roadmap can help organizations avoid such hurdles when implementing vendor-based solutions. A technology roadmap is a comprehensive plan that encompasses considerations for the entire system lifecycle at an organization, from pre-purchase to implementation to system optimization.
As someone with extensive experience helping clinical research organizations implement and improve their technology processes, Orla stressed that it’s best to do your homework before purchasing to gain the most value from a system.
1. Define your business problems
The first step in Orla’s recommended roadmap was to identify the business problems your organization is trying to solve. Are you looking for a solution that makes reporting easier? Provides a consolidated view of your research portfolio? Integrates with your EMR?
It’s critical to define your business problems before you begin searching for a technology solution so you can effectively ensure a vendor will be able to address those issues.
2. Identify who is impacted
Next, determine who is affected by those problems. Multiple individuals could be influenced by your technology decision, and so should be involved in the evaluation process. Orla suggested interviewing all stakeholders to gain multiple perspectives on each identified problem. This also allows you to communicate your needs more effectively with the vendor.
3. Establish your business requirements
With your business problems defined, you can now determine the features and functionality you require from a system. Orla recommended creating a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. That way, you know the features that are essential for your organization when evaluating technology vendors and can build an implementation plan.
Understanding your business requirements upfront also prevents the need to deviate from your implementation plan and add extra features post go-live, saving you time and money.
4. Set operational goals
Before you purchase a technology solution, it’s critical to know how you will measure the success of that system. During her presentation, Orla emphasized the importance of identifying operational goals that are meaningful to all stakeholders involved and then actively communicating them moving forward. She explained these goals should be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) and prioritized by significance to your organization.
5. Conduct a technology assessment
The last pre-purchase step Orla identified is the technology assessment. During a technology assessment, an organization evaluates the systems currently in use, identifies any gaps or overlaps existing with the current technology, and determines whether or not to sunset any systems that are no longer valuable. This is also a time to establish a future technology strategy for your organization. Orla suggests planning ahead 3-5 years into the future so you understand how a new system will fit into your organizations strategy before purchasing.
Knowing how technology can help your organization and how a system will fit into your current operations is a first step in finding the right solution to meet your needs. Orla’s presentation makes it clear that technology is only part of the solution to address business problems; and implementing effective operational processes and goals will help you see more value from your research technology.
This article only scratches the surface of ways in which you can establish successful operational processes. Download your copy of the 2018 State of Technology in Clinical Research eBook to hear from 800 research professionals about key factors that influence the success of technology at research organizations.