Getting response from clinical site coordinators can be a constant battle of repeated follow-ups.
There are many reasons why site coordinators don’t respond or are slow to respond. Today site coordinators receive continuous stream of communication from multiple sponsors and CROs. This communication comes through emails, phone calls, in-person visits and other internet-enabled mediums. Every clinical trial requires site coordinators to get trained on trial-specific systems.
Site coordinators are responsible for seeing patients, negotiating contracts, submitting IRB/EC packed and collecting clinical trial data. This gets overwhelming, especially if the site is understaffed. In other situations, the clinical research responsibilities are divided across various departments. For example, contracts are managed by the legal team. The division of work can reduce the burden on the site coordinator. But if the legal department is slow to respond or does not understand clinical research space, site coordinator ends up having to deal with additional communication.
In this post, I’ll share smart strategies to getting response from clinical site coordinators.
Combine your requests
When possible, batch your requests to the site coordinator. By batching your requests, you are allowing the coordinator to be more productive. A continuous stream of ad hoc requests and communication is distracting. Unless there is a reason to separate your requests, opt for combined, comprehensive communication.
Offer to work directly with other departments such as legal or IT on specific tasks
At many large and some smaller clinical sites, different departments handle different tasks. This makes coordinators job stressful and busy. If you have the ability to provide additional support, lend an extra hand to the coordinator. If the site coordinator accepts your help, be sure to keep her in the loop on the progress and challenges.
Provide clinical research tools that actually help the site coordinator
Often clinical trial sponsors and CROs create tools that are not effective in helping the site coordinator do her job. Challenge yourself to think outside the box. Leverage technology to address site coordinator pain points. Use a survey tool such as SurveyGizmo to gather feedback from your sites on what will help them them most.
Communicate regularly and do not surprise site coordinators with tight timelines
Is your project team planning for a database lock 3, 6 or 9 months from now? If so, start communicating early with the site coordinators. Inform site coordinators about potential due dates for query resolution, source data verification, data entry etc. in advance. It is the responsibility of the clinical research associates and project management team to work closely communicate strategize on timely site communication.
Commend site coordinators in front of his or her manager or site investigator
Publicly appreciating site coordinators, especially in front of her manager or site investigators can go a long way. Kind words are always welcome and never enough. Your site coordinator will see you as a trusted partner.
Be soft spoken, calm and professional at all times
It’s too easy to let your emotions take control, especially when you are stressed. There will be times when the site coordinator will be unresponsive or slow to respond. It is important that you stay calm and professional at all times. There is no need to show your frustration or anger, as it will almost always work against you. If the site coordinator is not willing to cooperate or collaborate, brainstorm alternatives with her or your internal team.
Recognize gaps in the site coordinators skills, and use it as an educational opportunity
Not everyone is a born clinical researcher. Many clinical research skills are learnt through experience and training. If you find that your site coordinator is struggling on a given task, think about ways you can offer to help her. If you know of resources that can help her, ask if she would like for you to share them. Only after she agrees, share what you have to offer. Providing unsolicited advice can make you look arrogant.
Determine the preferred communication frequency, method of communication and time of day
Understand your site coordinators communication preferences. Does she prefer to be reached via phone, email, pager or text message? Does the frequency of communication matter? In other words, if you are emailing or calling her more than 5 times a day, is that going to be annoying? The time of the day you reach out to site coordinator may also be important as many coordinators are also nurses who meet with patients at certain times of the day. Feel free to discuss communication preferences every time you start working with a new coordinator.
Be specific on when you need a response
I still receive emails requesting for something with no due date for the response and then the individual is upset because I did not respond instantaneously. Provide a due date if you expect a response by a certain date. If the issue is non-urgent, you can choose to not provide a due date. But then you shouldn’t expect an instantaneous response either.
Share best practices that you’ve learned from other site coordinators that may help them
If you are an experienced clinical research professional, chances are that you’ve learned many best practices over the years. Sharing these best practices will inspire and engage site coordinators. Many coordinators would love to learn how other sites are maintaining clinical trial files, screening and consenting patients or preparing for an FDA audit. If you provide value to your site coordinator, they will do the same, if not more for you.
To summarize, in this post we’ve covered 10 smart strategies to getting response from clinical site coordinators.
- Combine your requests
- Offer to work directly with other departments such as legal or IT on specific tasks
- Provide clinical research tools that actually help the site coordinator
- Communicate regularly and do not surprise them with tight timelines
- Commend study coordinators in front of his or her manager or site investigator
- Be soft spoken, calm and professional at all times
- Recognize gaps in the site coordinators skills, and use it as an educational opportunity
- Determine the preferred communication frequency, method of communication and time of day
- Be specific on when you need a response
- Share best practices that you’ve learned from other CRCs that may help them
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