Virtual Meetings Offer Solid Benefits for Investigators - Pharmaceutical Executive


Virtual Meetings Offer Solid Benefits for Investigators
The traditional approach to training investigators has some obvious problems. But many of them can be cured with Internet-based learning.

Pharma Meetings

First, the e-meeting must be interesting, so people want to pay attention. With some advance planning, it's easy to incorporate mark-up tools, live video, and simple animations to increase the session's entertainment value. In addition, interactive elements, such as audience polling, chat boxes, and live Q&A, will help participants to stay involved and engaged throughout the entire event.

Second, it's easy to track and document attendance and attentiveness. For instance, attendance can be tracked using log-on data for both the Web conference site and the telephone conference. In addition, attentiveness is often measured by informing participants that polling and chat box responses are mandatory and individually tracked. Widespread experience has shown that these measures are well accepted by audiences and result in documented levels of participation by 80 to 90 percent of attendees.

Hybrid meetings Companies don't have to make an all-or-nothing choice between a traditional on-site meeting and an all-virtual Web conference. Rather, study teams should consider a hybrid meeting that combines on-site and remote audiences in a single live training event. Hybrid formats can provide the best of both worlds, offering personal contact and more intense training for some audiences, while delivering convenience, low cost, and high attendance for others. Hybrid formats include the "attendee choice" model, in which participants can choose to travel on-site or stay home, and the "coordinator on-site" model, in which coordinators travel for more in-depth training, while busy investigators participate in a core session by Web conference.

Bringing It All Together

Some drug developers have begun to create study-specific Web sites, where they can post resources such as study documents and forms, amendments, newsletters, and FAQs to support the training of study site staff. This site (or "e-portal") can also be used to provide access to recorded versions of the presentations made at the study launch meeting.

This tactic is particularly well suited to investigator e-meetings, where presentations are already in digital media. It is important to note, however, that raw recordings—which can be boring and hard to navigate—require skillful post-production in order to transform them into training programs that are user-friendly and suitable for a range of target audiences.

In addition, experience has shown that Web sites devoted to training resources can deliver great value, but not every such Web site does. One common error: producing a quality Web site without driving target users to it. The solution is to actively promote the Web site and provide incentives for using the training resources.

When produced correctly, however, study-specific e-portals can offer:

Extend reach A typical investigator meeting is attended by one investigator and one coordinator from each study site. The problem with this design is that the average study site has three or four additional persons who will perform the roles of investigator or coordinator over the course of a given study. (This is based on a survey of study teams from leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.) In the past, there has usually been no formal program to train site staff who did not attend the launch meeting. This responsibility has been left to the site staff who did attend, or added to the duties of field monitors. An e-portal with self-training modules is a far superior way to extend training to all staff.

Reinforce learning It is well established that training is not effectively achieved by a single experience. Traditionally, though, it's fair to say that investigator meetings have been conducted as massive one-time data dumps. A training e-portal addresses this gap by allowing study site members to revisit material from the study launch meeting and reinforce what they've learned. Additional reinforcement tactics include the use of mid-study Web conferences and periodic e-newsletters that contain links to e-portal resources.


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