How to Increase Engagement at Investigator Meetings

In new age of digital, investigators must carefully create strategies to keep engagement high.

Conducting an effective clinical trial is more challenging than ever. Investigator meetings serve an important role in ensuring clinical trial sites are involved in discussions on implementation of complex protocols and provide a forum for training. A successful investigator meeting relies on engagement, communication, and follow-up support for effective study operations. Today, a meeting can take place in person, virtually or in a hybrid format. It’s critical that organizers engage attendees regardless of how (or where) they are attending the meeting and continue to provide clear communication and support.

Generally, engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that learners show when they are learning or being taught.1 It is broadly accepted that higher levels of engagement lead to better outcomes. This has been observed in various settings, from business2 to the classroom.3 One of the primary goals of professionals who organize and/or support meetings and events is to increase engagement of their attendees with the expectation of better outcomes.

The following are some key strategies for successful meetings, from planning for to evaluation of the meeting, and on to planning the next one.

1. Identify key content for a focused event and set clear objectives

Many investigator meetings suffer from being over ambitious in the amount of content to be covered.

Before the meeting, outline your critical goals and be selective with event content. Consult with internal study team colleagues, field teams and representatives of study sites to align objectives.

2. Collaborate

To prevent investigator meetings from being long, expensive, and ineffective, event organizers and clinical trial leads need to work together. They need to collaborate with presenters and chairpersons to refine useful event content, maximize learning and gather feedback.

3. Choose the right event technology partner

As noted, while most pharma companies still prefer a face-to-face investigator meeting, today more are being conducted in virtual or hybrid formats. Rising costs, busy schedules, travel restrictions and tight timelines make it important to maximize convenience. Principal investigators and site staff expect virtual options. Virtual investigator meetings are cost-effective, highly convenient, and accessible.

Look for an event technology that supports hybrid and virtual events. The right platform paired with an intentionally designed presentation makes it easy to empower presenters, boost content engagement, and measure the impact of your training.

4. Engage intentionally for learning retention

For some sites, it may be three to six months after the Investigator Meeting before they are recruiting or managing patients within a study protocol. To maximize learning retention, investigator meetings should leverage active, engaged learning that centers on participation and discussion and aligns with endpoints of the study.

Engagement strategies can include:

  • Polls/Surveys: To gauge opinions and understanding
  • Q&As: To facilitate discussion with experts /study leadership
  • Gamification: To encourage competition
  • Saved slides/resources: To save important information and study resources
  • Incorrect responses to polling questions may indicate a need for follow-up with study site teams at site initiation or early monitoring visits.

5. Put inclusion and exclusion criteria into practice

Your clinical trial sites need to be able to select the appropriate patients. Familiarity with and understanding of inclusion and exclusion criteria is critical to optimize recruitment. Rather than simply listing these criteria in a Death-by-Powerpoint presentation, consider a more active approach to provide opportunities for study teams to simulate patient selection/screening etc. in a risk-free learning environment. For example, present a patient case and have them identify whether they’re a good candidate for the study. Providing feedback and the opportunity to review the case together will reinforce the training.

6. Invite feedback to identify and overcome challenges

Study site teams are great resources for information about what does and doesn’t work on the front lines. They can identify challenges in implementing the protocol locally, including patient availability, recruitment and retention, and new technologies. The investigator meeting provides an opportunity for seeking input on such challenges. Ask experienced teams what has worked well in similar studies; what tools and processes helped solve issues like low recruitment, administrative burden and more? Then, open a dialogue for site personnel to engage and collaborate. Be sure to build in pauses in presentations to allow space for responses. Share these takeaways in your post-event communications and clinical trial hub.

7. Leverage event data to extend support and resources

The key to successful clinical trials is extending support to boost adherence to study protocols. Look for a tech partner that can capture individual engagement data; this type of data can help clinical trial leaders via:

  • Open-ended questions: Gather insights to find solutions to challenges and make crucial decisions on enrollment criteria before it’s finalized.
  • Pre- and post-test results: See demonstration of learning and identify continued knowledge gaps
  • Post-event evaluations: Capture feedback on certain roles and responsibilities, what areas they need more support resources, and attendee satisfaction.
  • Saved content and notes: Track content engagement to identify most commonly saved content personalized learning inventories.
  • Make investigator meeting recordings, materials, and tools, available on your clinical study hub. Provide useful resources for study site teams, as well as access for those unable to attend in person.

8. Learn from your history to improve

Have regular conversations with your sites during clinical research. After completion, review your past trials and identify root problems that led to poor performance. What knowledge, communication, and support gaps caused issues? What tools and materials did struggling sites lack? As many pharma events are transformed by engagement and analytics, clinical trial leads and investigator meeting organizers can improve event management by applying lessons from past clinical trials to how they conduct investigator meetings in the future.

With proper planning and engagement strategies, sponsor companies can see better data collection and improved site performance and relationships. Polls, surveys, and discussions are vital for investigator meetings to identify knowledge gaps and address challenges, like low enrollment.

Marc Crawford, CEO of Array

References

  1. Great Schools Partnership. Student Engagement: The Glossary of Education Reform. Published online February 18, 2016. Available at: https://www.edglossary.org/student-engagement/. Accessed April 26, 2018.
  2. Sorenson S. How Employee Engagement Drives Growth. Business Journal. Published online June 20, 2013. Available at: http://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx. Accessed April 26, 2018.
  3. Casuso-Holgado MJ, Cuesta-Vargas AI, Moreno-Morales N, Labajos-Manzanares MT, Baron-Lopez J, Vega-Cuesta M. The association between academic engagement and achievement in health sciences students. BMC Med Educ. 2013;13:33. Published online February 27, 2013. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-13-33. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3599896/. Accessed April 26, 2018.