Top 5 Ways to Keep Research Sites Engaged

My name is Morgan and I’m the Customer Operations Manager at Clinically Media. A main aspect of my job is managing research sites participating in specific clinical trials. I make sure they have all the information and materials they need in order to succeed. And more importantly, I keep them engaged and motivated to fill the trial!

My passion for customer success management began during my time at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder, where I majored in Management. Since then, I have maintained a track record of success in customer support roles. Prior to joining the Clinically Media team, I helped customers manage their payroll and Human Resource software as a Customer Success Advocate at Gusto.

In this blog, I’m going to discuss the top five ways I keep our sites engaged and motivated throughout a clinical trial.

1. Introduce Yourself

It may seem obvious, but the introductory phase lays the groundwork for a positive customer relationship. This is your first time engaging with the Site Coordinator, so be confident, friendly, and ready for any immediate questions.

The majority of research sites report that they don’t know who they should direct their questions to during a clinical trial. So make sure the Site Coordinator knows your name and has access to your email and phone number right away. This will allow for easy, direct communication. It’s also important to have all materials, login information, etc. ready to go for a smooth start to the trial.
 Additionally, this is the perfect opportunity to gather or confirm the site’s information. Below is a list of details I make sure to get:
  • Primary Investigator and Site Coordinator’s name

  • Site’s mailing address

  • Phone numbers with extensions (if available)

  • Website

Having this information confirmed immediately will save your team time and energy when sending packages, email updates, and trying to get in contact with the correct people.

2. Check-In’s

Once your main contacts at the sites know who you are, you will begin to check in with them in order to give and receive updates. Frequent communication is key to your overall success with research centers. For the majority of our studies, we have chosen to implement bi-weekly check-in’s. This gives enough time for sites to reach out to referrals, conduct screenings, and continue with treatments between check-in’s.
During the Crimson Study for Rosacea sponsored by Cage Bio, our team would create call and email scripts so communication was consistent and efficient. I’ve found that calling is the most impactful form of communication due to the personal touch and immediate response time. Emails have proven to be the second-best form of communication. When it comes to emails, it’s always Quality over Quantity. Site coordinators are extremely busy, so make sure communication is simple and to the point. Additionally, including a call to action or callback will compel them to respond with their updates.
Checking in with the sites regularly and thoroughly creates a trusting relationship that allows for open communication. If sites feel that they can give you honest feedback and updates, then you can provide them with the assistance they need, ultimately keeping them committed to improving their enrollment.

3. Tracking

In order to stay on schedule and report progress, always track any communication and shipments to the site. As mentioned, check-in’s are one of the most important aspects of working with research sites. This is when you can discuss goals, answer questions, and receive updates regarding enrollment. During the Cardigan Study, we tracked our bi-weekly calls with sites in a secure, online spreadsheet. We then connected this to a Data Visualization tool for sponsors to review as needed. I recommend adding notes about what was discussed so nothing is forgotten after the call.
For one of our largest studies, the Cardigan Study sponsored by Brickell Biotech, Inc., we shipped over 80 packages with posters, flyers, and postcards to sites for marketing purposes. A HIPAA compliant spreadsheet was key in tracking shipping dates, tracking numbers, received data, and more. This allowed us to stay on track and have materials delivered to the site before enrollment began.
Due to the size of the study, our team divided the sites in half. This allowed us to give extra attention to our sites and provide detailed updates to the sponsor. Tracking will keep your engagement organized and continuous, leaving the site feeling prepared and supported.

4. Incentive Campaigns

As we all know, clinical trials can be difficult to enroll, especially when the condition or criteria of the patient is rare to find. We experienced this when working with Neuraly Inc. on the PRISM Study for early-stage Parkinson’s Disease. This was a difficult study to recruit for because the patients couldn’t have previously participated in any treatments, which is typically the first thing people do after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Since the majority of qualified patients were coming from the sites, Neuraly decided to implement an incentive bonus program for the research centers in order to screen more patients. The site received an additional amount of money for every patient screened during a specific timeframe. We were hired to make sure the incentive bonuses were communicated correctly to the site.

Our team at Clinically Media decided to send packages with PRISM study “goodies” for the site, along with a letter informing them of the Incentive Program. The package included useful items for the sites including:
  • Additional study flyers and postcards to leave around their office

  • Screened patient chart in order to track their bonuses

  • Notepads

  • Pens

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Medical-grade masks

We received a lot of positive feedback from sites regarding the promotional products. One site’s response, “Thanks for the little box of goodies, I gave two items to a subject and kept a pen for myself!” The sites were happy to hear about the additional bonuses they could receive, and the packages added an extra sense of appreciation.

Throughout difficult trials, sites need extra encouragement. Even though added bonuses aren’t always an option, simply showing sites that their efforts are appreciated will re-engage them and ensure your trial is their top priority.


5. Go above and beyond

Last but not least, always go above and beyond for your research sites! At the end of the day, they are the ones conducting the actual trial, so its success depends on their engagement, commitment, and attitude. It’s your responsibility to ensure research sites are happy by providing them with the resources and support they need from start to finish.

In my experience, the below attributes will help you form a positive relationship with your research sites:

  1. Be friendly and supportive – Service can make or break a working relationship.

  2. Always be asking how you can help – Even if a site brings up something small and says, “But you can’t help with that”, come up with ideas to implement anyway.

  3. Emphasize you are there to help the site, not just the sponsor – This is a partnership. You and the site are a team with a shared goal of filling the clinical trial.

In conclusion, there are many ways to keep your research sites engaged throughout a clinical trial and these have been the top five in my experience. First impressions set the standard of your relationship. Check-in’s will keep you and the site prepared and up to date. Tracking allows for overall success and reporting. When applicable, incentive campaigns will re-engage your sites. And going above and beyond will create a positive and lasting relationship with the research sites!

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