Site Empowerment Starts with Enhanced Communication

Meghan Hosely
February 4th, 2020

The relationship between clinical research sites and trial sponsors often proves to be a challenging one. Expectations and deadlines must be met, all while producing quality results from each trial. Site empowerment refers to the process that helps sites gain control over, and ultimately improve, their relationships with sponsors. Not sure where to start with improving your site-sponsor relationships? The tips below outline a few things to keep in mind to help strengthen the relationship. 

Communicate Often with your Sponsor

In order to have a successful relationship with a sponsor, it all comes down to communication. Especially in a fast-paced, multi-faceted clinical trial, enhanced communication improves protocol development, design and timelines. These improvements will ultimately lead to higher quality outcomes, enhancing your site’s reputation as a whole.

While there’s no one right way for sponsors and sites to communicate, the most effective way to improve communication is with honest and open dialogue. Defining expectations from both sides will help put everyone on the same timeline for a protocol, helps uncover potential roadblocks and enables staff members to do their jobs correctly and efficiently. The more empowered staff members at sites are, the more likely they are to continually work toward a healthy relationship with the sponsor.

Although enhanced communication sounds easy up front, in reality, it can be difficult to implement. Establishing a checklist of practices not only holds everyone accountable, but keeps everything in place as communication is elevated. A few different things to keep in mind for a checklist include:

  • Early engagement between sponsors and sites
  • Mutual confidentiality agreements allowing sharing of information
  • In-person meetings with key stakeholders
  • Identifying roadblocks at the site

Set Clear Expectations

Communication will only go so far if sites and sponsors don’t pair it with clear expectations. Especially with contractual relationships between sites and sponsors, it’s important to simply state what is expected of everyone, and what the consequences of non-compliance will look like. Playing to staff members’ strengths will empower them to not only do their job correctly, but also enjoy it.

Expectations will vary from institution to institution, but knowing what keeps staff members accountable will help in setting responsibilities going forward. When time allows, holding meetings to form and uphold relationships throughout a trial will help greatly, and keep everyone accountable.

Empower a Clinical Trial Liaison

Enabling a staff member to become the clinical trial liaison between your site and the sponsor helps in more ways than one. Ultimately, a liaison will be responsible for answering any questions pertaining to the study, as well as troubleshoot the roadblocks that come up between the site and sponsor. Study teams should appoint someone who possesses qualities such as strategic thinking, advanced communication and relationship management.

The clinical trial liaison will work closely with the sponsor’s study team, but in order for the relationship to be effective, the liaison must establish and maintain open communication with the sponsor. As previously stated, not only does this help the liaison perform their job well, but it helps build a relationship between the site and sponsor. The more established a relationship is, the easier it will be to integrate the teams, which ultimately impacts the success of the trial overall.