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Over the last 30 years, the process of clinical research and clinical trials have undergone a revolution. However, despite these changes investigator meetings have not evolved.
Over the last 30 years, the process of clinical research and clinical trials have undergone a revolution, one that has expanded the complexity, global reach and sheer quantity of trials. Despite these changes, investigator meetings have not evolved. The majority of these meetings are still centered on a series of PowerPoint® presentations with limited participant interaction. While investigators are certainly familiar with this communications approach, it is far from optimal. Not only are PowerPoint lectures an outdated and ineffective way to review the details of a trial protocol, but also are ineffective when it comes to accommodating a variety of learning styles. Following the presentations, attendees are typically given follow-up materials in print with the expectation that they travel back home and communicate these learnings with their staff. These are all factors that are hindering clinical trial investigators’ ability to drive deeper understanding about patient identification and enrollment. Fortunately, digital technologies and strategic design approaches are beginning to dramatically reimagine the investigator meeting experience, enabling more open discussions on scientific background or studying drugs and their key inclusions/exclusions. Reimagine the Investigator Experience While at first glance, there is little in common between an investigator meeting and today’s digitally driven consumer culture, consumer brand experiences have raised the bar for meetings and experiences of all types. In this context, crafting a great investigator meeting experience begins by “thinking beyond the meeting,” or discerning how attendees can be reached with meaningful content and experiences before, during and after the event. By concentrating on the following key concepts, investigators will be able to create more powerful meetings, help ensure successful trials and drive engagement, accuracy, long-term retention and social interaction among investigators: 1) Think Beyond the Meeting: While it is important to make a meeting as productive as possible, investigators should not overlook the chance to engage attendees before and after the live event. Password protected portals are a powerful platform that can engage investigators prior to them arriving onsite, allowing them to review basic materials before the meeting, as well as begin to network with fellow investigators and staff. When they arrive onsite, this spirit of collaboration can be further enhanced and amplified through a series of activities and digital experiences such as quizzes, trial simulations, and the use of interactive tablets. The portal can also remain active after the meeting to provide a central point for communication and dissemination of information. 2) Reimagine Collaboration: Simple ice breaker tactics, including interactive protocol recall quizzes, maps of study sites and sponsor and contract research organization study team biographies can liven up welcome dinners and receptions by facilitating connections and building camaraderie amongst team members. Building this type of social capital while attendees are gathered in person pays strong dividends as the trial progresses. 3) Increase Comprehension: Trial protocols can often times be extremely complicated, even for experienced clinicians. In a work environment marked by data overload, infographics are another powerful tool for condensing complex protocol data into meaningful and memorable takeaways. This visual approach caters to a variety of different learning styles, and – with minor modifications – also enables flexibility across different roles, from investigator to coordinator. 4) Accelerate Communication: While investigator meetings provide tremendous opportunities for attendees to access a deeper understanding of patient identification and enrollment in the clinical trials industry, it is also a significant investment. As a result, it doesn’t just stop at the event, and is essential to continue the meeting momentum by maximizing the rate and quality of personal communication and feedback. For example, providing tablets for all attendees during the meeting can improve dissemination of information. It has also shown to increase the number of questions asked due to the fact that attendees can remain anonymous. Additionally, tablets and other wireless technologies also aid as a mechanism for measuring investigators’ real-time comprehension of the event. 5) Leverage Digital to Drive Retention: Another crucial component of driving a successful investigator meeting is to engage participants over the course of the event. For example, breakout groups are an effective tactic for driving communications and heightening the meeting experience, as immersive learning and digital interaction experiences like a trial run simulation, can lead to much deeper engagement, compared to a PowerPoint presentation given to larger groups. Interactive patient identification activities can also enhance and improve the understanding of inclusions and exclusions, as well as forces participants to think about “real world” patients. As mentioned above, a trial run simulation provides the opportunity to dramatically improve retention and completion by taking participants through difficult issues that they may encounter, or by providing strategies on how to overcome and improve industry challenges. Live investigator meetings remain a key milestone in the clinical trial process, and represent a significant investment of time, attention and money for everyone involved. To create more effective meetings and receive a greater return on this investment, organizations should put strategies into place that focus on these five key strategies, as well as ensure all key protocol information is delivered in an engaging and memorable manner. The end result will provide participants with increased opportunities to interact with the content and each other, and ultimately elevate the investigator meeting experience to new heights. Ken Fabianovicz is Director of Commercial Strategy & Innovation at Cadient, a Cognizant Company.