The term “empowerment” can take on a wide range of meanings and interpretations. By definition, to empower means to enable. When we talk about site empowerment, we’re referring to the process that helps sites gain control over, and ultimately improve, their relationships with sponsors/CROs. Empowerment isn’t just an outcome or a destination, but a process and a journey. It involves challenging assumptions about the way things are and can be. An empowered site is one that has discovered they can choose something other than what is expected or try something different than what has always been done.
First steps to empowerment.
There are many opportunities for empowerment, but if sites aren’t aware of what’s possible, they may be held back from achieving great things. Sites first need information before they can take the initiative and bring forth change. That’s why we published a series of blogs in our Site Empowerment Series that introduced different techniques and best practices sites can implement to enhance relationships. Sites can be their own advocates, and by taking small steps they can learn a lot along the way. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but not much will change unless sites take action. Take the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”
Rethinking how they interact with sponsors/CROs, sites can proactively navigate the relationship to drive change. Specifically, sites can reduce redundancies and inefficiencies in the feasibility and start-up processes, take charge of initiation visit agendas and training programs to ensure they get what they need, and more effectively manage monitoring visit follow-up activities, to name a few. Too often, there are disconnects between sites and sponsors/CROs, and they don’t always operate as a team. Like any relationship, good communication is essential for success, but there will also be challenges along the way. While it might be easy to pinpoint the faults in others, playing the blame game isn’t productive and doesn’t get most partnerships very far.
What does the empowered site-sponsor/CRO relationship look like?
It won’t be the same for everyone, but the empowered site-sponsor/CRO relationship is a lot more balanced than what has traditionally been a more one-sided dynamic, with sites simply responding to requests and demands from the sponsor/CRO. This may include challenging tradition, breaking out of follow-the-leader mindset, and even having sites become more assertive. Of course, underlying this process is mutual respect between sites and sponsors/CROs and a recognition that we are all after the same thing in the end – a rapid, safe and ethical means to answering important research questions that are aimed at advancing medical care for patients. It should also involve building trust, cooperation, and communication between sites and sponsors/CROs. This may lead to redefining relationships, rethinking where, when, and how sites communicate with their partners, and having more balanced partnerships.
Becoming an empowered site takes time and effort, but the results can yield great benefits. Getting there is a journey, and it begins with awareness of the opportunities that exist. Once sites realize what is possible, they can be on the road to empowerment.
To learn more about how you can become an empowered site and collaborate with your peers to improve site-sponsor relationships, join us for our free upcoming webinar “Regional Site Empowerment Meet-Ups: Initiating Conversation and Improving Site-Sponsor Relationships.”
This article was originally published on December 1, 2014.