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How to Reduce Operational Costs of Clinical Trials in Uncertain Economic Conditions

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Clinical trials can’t avoid fluctuating economic conditions. Changes in the market can especially impact emerging and early-stage biotech companies with limited cash reserves. A clinical trial’s fate can hang in the balance when funding conditions change, especially in early phases.

In an informal survey of 43 CROs in June 2022, Florence found that:

  • 57% of sponsors and CROs say the 2022 economic downturn is impacting their operations
  • 70% of sponsors and CROs say their budgets have been reduced or they expect them to be reduced

Numerous factors affect the cost of a clinical trial, but one of the largest expenses is site and study management. Sending an army of CRAs to dispersed research sites quickly adds up. Additionally, limited visibility into site operations leads to wasted resources, costly delays, and even missed trial milestones. 

Several major sponsors already use digital platforms, like Florence’s SiteLink™, to collaborate with study sites in real time. This access and visibility across all study sites facilitates the movement of limited resources and funding to the right research sites and the right people, at the right time.

If you’d like to learn more about how a remote site access platform can help you manage economic downturns, visit Florence’s SiteLink™ product tour.

Or keep reading to discover how remote site collaboration platforms help sponsors weather economic fluctuations:

1. Double Site Management Capacity of CRAs

Remote site collaboration platforms allow CRAs to significantly reduce the amount of in-person visits needed to monitor and maintain quality relationships with study sites. Our 2022 Impact of Remote Monitoring on CRAs Report, which surveyed 143 CRAs, found that the average CRA is able to double the number of sites they manage per week through a combination of remote and in-person visits.

This same 2022 study found that CRAs were up to 50% more efficient on 30% of their daily tasks with remote monitoring. The most effective CRAs were able to remotely access more than 50 sites per week at one of our CRO partners.

By switching from just in-person monitoring and oversight to real-time remote collaboration, CRAs more than double the number of sites they are responsible for, significantly reducing the headcount required to maintain operations.

2. Reduce Expenses and Time Wasted on CRA Travel to Sites

Before the pandemic, CRAs spent up to 20% of their time in cars or on planes. ​​That meant sponsors and CROs had to pay for plane tickets and gas, and CRAs spent a full day each week traveling instead of working with sites or reviewing documents. 

By giving CRAs the technology to examine documents and data remotely, sponsors can dramatically cut down on travel costs for CRAs. Sites can save money too, since they no longer have to dedicate staff to prepping for CRA visits. 

With the help of SiteLink, one top 5 sponsor reduced their in-person monitoring visits by more than 50%. Although they began to use remote monitoring technology during the pandemic, they continued to use it after because of how much it reduced their travel costs and increased their efficiency.

3. Minimize Cost and Impact of CRA Turnover

The voluntary turnover rate for CRAs hovers around 30%, while the average voluntary turnover rate in the U.S. is 15%. Excessive travel, including changes in sleeping and eating habits, can lead to stress and these high turnover rates

Turnover isn’t just common among CRAs: it’s costly. CenterWatch indicates CRA onboarding costs, including hiring, amount to more than 30% of a CRA’s first-year salary.

And that’s when new CRAs are available. The number of open clinical trial positions grows by roughly 9.3% year over year. 

Helping CRAs monitor sites more quickly and travel less will allow you to hold onto the CRAs you have. It will also help those CRAs be more efficient, so your organization is less affected by staffing shortages.

4. Reduce Delays and Waste by Identifying Underperforming Sites Sooner

When sites underperform in recruiting patients or meeting study deadlines, it’s often because of failures in sponsor-site communication

CRAs want to help sites. But they have so many sites to monitor that by the time they perform an in-person visit, they’re often too late to aid the site in overcoming their challenges. 

Remote site collaboration platforms can prevent these errors. 75% of CRAs said they can identify potential issues with site documents sooner with the help of remote monitoring. 

With all-in-one dashboards, CRAs can instantly see which sites have fallen behind in submitting regulatory documents, and 68% of CRAs said they could help sites remediate those issues faster. This helps sites get back on track before it’s too late for CRAs to help them.

5. Minimize Headcount Needed to Support Technology Platforms Internally and at Sites with a Focus on Ease-of-Use

If you need to hire a deep bench of IT professionals to maintain remote site access systems for your organization or your sites, the technology won’t reduce waste.

Look for site-first technology platforms that are easy-to-use for research sites with limited IT resources. This focus on ease-of-use, ease-of-setup, and quality of support benefits research sites and their sponsors and CROs, who don’t have to hire extra staff for them. 

As Florence’s average adoption rate shows, sponsors can expect 92%+ of their sites to fully adopt technology when site ease-of-use is a priority.

Reduce the impact of economic fluctuations on your clinical operations with a remote site collaboration platform

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate a fluctuating economy’s impact on your clinical operations, moving your site collaboration to a secure, remote, real-time platform can minimize that impact and help your clinical trials stay on track.

Moving from one-way oversight of sites to bi-directional real-time collaboration won’t just help you reduce costs: it will also position you to be a leader among sponsors and CROs in the next decade. 

We’ve already seen sponsor and CRO clients accelerate their study start-up timelines, expand research to community-based frontier sites to increase diversity, improve their TMF quality and completeness, and form positive site relationships through SiteLink

Set up a call with our team to talk about how you can get started on remote workflows with your sites, which of your sites already belong to our 12,000-strong site network, and the ROI you can expect to see after making the shift.