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Grasping for innovation: Where should industry look?

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Pulse on Patient Recruitment by Ashley Tointon

As technology progresses at a rate hard to keep up with, many in the clinical trials space struggle to be innovative while desperately wanting to try something new. Clinical trial recruitment is a difficult endeavor; removing barriers to participation is a priority. One way to make things easier it to try innovative ideas that make things less complicated for patients. These can be simple solutions like eConsenting or eDiaries, or can be as complex as fully remote trials using telemedicine technology.

Going outside the norm is very appealing on many levels and can be exciting; however, innovative approaches also come with inherent risks. In a highly regulated environment, innovation does not get implemented easily. With digital, mobile and wearable devices becoming more standard practices, sifting out true innovation that is risk adverse becomes more challenging. Seeking innovation is not a passive effort. Weeding out the groundbreaking initiatives requires effort, diligence and lots of research.

It’s easy to ignore unsolicited communications from companies or industry groups that are trying something for the first time. It’s natural to want to wait for beta testing to be complete, with proven metrics that show results. While this may be true, delaying or skipping opportunities is counteractive to innovation and could become a major missed opportunity. When an idea is good enough to put into practice, partnering with someone to test it out could be a win for both parties.

Collaborating with others who share similar goals can be extremely productive. There are multiple industry consortiums dedicated to innovative ideas. Find out if your company is participating on a work stream and volunteer. Looking at things you are prone to ignore with a fresh perspective is one simple way to train your brain to be open to out-of-the-box ideas.

Unlikely places to gain fresh ideas and knowledge may be missed if you’re not fully connecting with current team members and vendors. There could be a wealth of knowledge right under your nose that is virtually untapped. People you interact with every day may have prior experience with innovation that was simply not mentioned. Asking questions about new approaches and both positive and negative experiences could be the spark of a brilliant new way to do things. Include innovation discussions into existing meetings. Remove barriers that may cause people to be hesitant to speak up. Ask, “If money were not a factor, what do you think would be the most innovative thing we can do for this program? Is fear of failure a factor that hampers recruitment within your team?” Create a culture that values new ideas. The responses may be surprising.

In addition to paying attention to new ideas, teammates and partners, it is important to also do your homework. Find out what other companies are doing. Look at innovation in other industries and consider how to apply it to the clinical research space. Exploring innovation in a completely different industry can spark many adaptable ideas. It’s essential to regularly look at industry trends from conferences, publications and press releases. One way to assess the risk of a new idea is to understand how similar adoptions have played out in real scenarios. Setting aside time to research innovation is crucial, but the effort can pay off exponentially.

Perhaps you will stumble upon a new innovation accidently, but chances are significantly better when you take a proactive approach. The majority of the most successful companies in the world make innovation a priority, not by accident but rather from a deliberate approach. If innovation is not a priority, you just might miss your innovation window, which could have detrimental long-term effects. At regular intervals, you should question processes and services, even if they are being implemented effectively with good results. Waiting until there is a problem is counteractive to progressive technology innovation. Almost everything can be improved upon if given enough thought.  



Ashley Tointon has more than 20 years of patient recruitment and project management experience supporting clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry. Currently she provides recruitment expertise, strategy and leadership as Principal Consultant of Accelerate Clinical Enrollment LLC. Email tointon@icloud.com or tweet @AshleyTointon.

This article was reprinted from CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »

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