After seeing how a little extra contact with investigative sites improved study-start up times and enrollment, Quintiles has doubled its number of strategic site relationship managers (SSRMs) in the past eight months.
Melissa Holbrook, Quintiles’ senior director of site management, said the SSRM role was created about six years ago in Western Europe and then expanded in the U.S. two years later as part of Quintiles’ efforts to improve communication and relationships with sites. The SSRM’s job entails calling or visiting assigned sites regularly and serving as the main contact when questions or concerns arise.
This is an improvement on what historically had been done. “For most sites, their main contact would be the CRA on individual projects, and they’d have to go up the chain of command on that project to get any answers,” Holbrook remembered.
Sites were frustrated, and on the phone for hours, sometimes never getting their question answered by the CRO.
Now sites–at least those associated with Quintiles’ partner sites program—are a lot happier. At minimum, the SSRM is in touch with the site monthly, and more often the interaction is far more frequent, said Holbrook. Communication is vastly improved, as is planning for future projects. That’s because SSRMs also share, in blinded fashion, information about upcoming studies in Quintiles’ pipeline so the sites can get ready for studies for which they’d be appropriate.
Recently, Holbrook said, it became clear that when an extra person such as a SSRM is staying in close touch with the sites, start-up times improve by about 20% and enrollment jumps 100%. Hiring more SSRMs only made sense.
“We recognized that there’s such a value-add to the relationships we create with sites, that we decided to expand the role and make it more local, decreasing the number of sites that the person is responsible for,” Holbrook said.
Quintiles had about 20 SSRMs worldwide, but has now upped that to 45, and reduced the size and scope of their territories. Each SSRM is currently responsible for on average 15 sites, depending on the region.
No two regions look alike, said Holbrook. For example, Florida, which has many sites, used to constitute one SSRM territory. Now it’s three. Since the expansion, there are 25 territories in the U.S., three in Canada, and the rest are in Western Europe, Poland and India. Holbrook said Quintiles is planning to add new territories in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Each SSRM has worked within a site. Holbrook said many of them are former site-based CRCs, site managers, CRAs, clinical team leads or have project management experience. A few are physicians.
“The experience will depend on what is acceptable within the local cultures,” Holbrook said.
By the end of the year, Holbrook said there will likely be 50 to 52 SSRMs total worldwide.