Many Clinical Trial Challenges Have Roots in Communication Gaps

Dawn Burke
April 18th, 2013

The recent ACRP Global Conference in Orlando, FL was filled with opportunities to network with fellow research professionals, learn new strategies for overcoming challenges in clinical research, and see what’s new in the industry. As someone with a marketing background, I welcomed the opportunity to attend multiple sessions and expand my knowledge of clinical research. These sessions ranged from regulatory issues to recruitment tactics to communication strategies. I found that last topic to be particularly interesting, and was an overarching theme to many of the other sessions.

It was enlightening to me that one of the biggest challenges for sites and sponsors alike is communication and, particularly, transparency of study activity. At a conference that brings sponsors, monitors, and site staff all together, this was the perfect opportunity to address some of the hurdles encountered. From the sessions that I attended, some themes emerged around the need to improve communication and some strategies that can be used to do so.

When you think about the goals of sponsors and sites, they are very similar – successful enrollment, quality data, finding a treatment to disease, patient care, and of course, accomplishing all of this with good financial health. So why is it, when goals are aligned that gaps in communication still exist?

One theme from a session I attended was that, for many individuals, deadlines seem to compete. Sponsors and sites alike forget that everyone is working from their own set of deadlines. Recommended strategies included clear communication of deadlines, timely reminders prior to reaching the deadlines, respecting that everyone is on the same team with the same goals and believing that everyone is working hard. Trust and transparency among researchers is critical.

Some sessions at the conference were devoted solely to improving communication and utilizing people skills. The skills discussed are all things that can be learned – enthusiasm, teamwork, and professionalism. And most of all, respect and patience for other research professionals with whom you may be working, whether within your own site or with your sponsor.

I learned a lot at ACRP about the daily life of clinical research professionals and it was a terrific opportunity to relate what we do back to the people we work with. For us, at Forte® Research Systems, we are consistently looking for ways to improve our products, and thus, improve the operations of sites that utilize our software. Improving communication is one way that software, like a clinical trial management system (CTMS) can do this. One aspect of clinical trial management software is to enhance the communication about all protocols among site staff. The downstream effect of this is better data management so that sites can communicate protocol statuses with their monitor and sponsor or CRO. In addition to the various techniques that were discussed at the conference, a CTMS can be an effective tool for improving communication.

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