Virtual CRA Meetings: Promoting Discussion, not Silence


Applied Clinical Trials

Applied Clinical TrialsApplied Clinical Trials-12-01-2013
Volume 22
Issue 12

Virtual CRA meetings hold a lot of potential, but work still needs to be done to ensure effectiveness.

Ineffective meetings are frustrating for everyone. Due to lack of participation, important information is often repeated which results in lost interest and decreased attendance. The purpose of virtual meetings is to communicate study information and decisions. It's a forum in which ideas are shared and resolutions brainstormed. These meetings, as currently conducted, are unproductive.

CRAs need information for their job performance and outlet to communicate issues. Recently, I completed some online "effective meeting" trainings. While the information was interesting, its relevance was limited since it was regarding face-to-face meetings, not virtual meetings. The question still remains how to create a more effective virtual meeting.

I came up with the following ideas:

  • Be clear on the purpose of the meeting. The team needs to understand the purpose and the value of attendance and participation.

  • Decrease distractions. The Lead should communicate participation and attention expectations beyond placing phones on mute. The CRAs should listen, take notes, ask questions, and offer suggestions.

  • Start and end meetings on time. Don't devalue the time of those that are punctual by having them wait for those that are tardy.

  • Record the meetings and emphasize attendance. Attending the CRA meeting is not suggested but mandatory. If they are unable to attend, CRAs should review the recording and the Lead should follow-up with the CRA to ensure understanding. This extra step will reduce the risk of important information being missed and decrease the necessity to repeat information.

  • Involve CRAs in the meeting agenda/purpose. Generally, Lead CRAs create an agenda, detail, and presentation. The Lead CRAs aren't dealing with the day-to-day issues, therefore, shouldn't be the sole contributors of the meeting topics. CRAs should be encouraged to contribute toward agenda topics to improve the meetings' relevance and create a collaborative environment.

  • Follow-up on action items. If an issue was escalated and resolution ideas suggested, follow-up with the CRAs during the next meeting. This improves CRA accountability and demonstrates the Lead CRA's interest in the CRA's success, as well as emphasizes the importance of timely resolution to the team.

  • Ask specific questions. To ensure understanding of new processes, call on people and ask specific questions. "Jane, if a discrepancy is noted, who should you contact?" is much more effective than "any questions?" Use of direct questions should be limited to curb feelings of being picked on or tested. The purpose isn't to isolate but to engage the CRAs.

  • Limit discussion to agenda topics. While we want to encourage participation, we need to ensure that the agenda items are fully addressed and the meeting ends on time. Ad hoc items can be tabled to the end of the meeting if time is available, off-line, or added to the next meeting agenda.

  • Detailed meeting minutes, not a general overview. Recordings are only available for a limited time, so once the recording is gone, discussions and decisions are lost.

With change there may be other unforeseen challenges, the meetings need to be focused and collaborative and the above are some simple ideas that can be implemented for a successful team environment. What are some things that you are doing to engage your virtual study team and have effective and productive meetings? Visit for discussions.

Luizinha Monteiro, CCRP Lead CRA, Quintiles Contributor, ClinOps Toolkit Blog e-mail: [email protected]

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