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

Address English as a second language Clinical research is increasingly conducted at study sites where most or all of the staff speak English as a second language (ESL). For instance, a typical investigator meeting in Europe is conducted in English for audiences that are 80 to 90 percent ESL. Because ESL skills vary greatly, this raises major concerns about training comprehension and retention. The ideal solution would be to translate all training into native languages for target learners, but this method can prove both costly and time-consuming.

A training e-portal, even if it is delivered entirely in English, is an excellent alternative. Self-training modules allow users to pause and repeat, so they can control the pace of learning. (Imagine for a moment you are an ESL learner, and think of the "fast-talkers" you know on study teams!) Self-training modules can include scrolling text of presenter commentary, a benefit to the many ESL learners who read English more easily than they can listen to it. The bottom line is that comprehension will skyrocket for many ESL learners.

Assess learning Training without assessment runs counter to good training practices, yet rarely has "testing out" been part of investigator meetings. A training e-portal offers an excellent platform for providing self-tests for study site staff. Learning assessment methods can be used to:

  • Gauge the comprehension of study launch material by ESL users
  • Assist individual learners in identifying content they need to revisit
  • Help field monitors identify staff or entire sites that need training reinforcement
  • Allow study teams to identify training topics that scored low across all learners and require follow-up.

Better Documentation Among the greatest benefits of a training e-portal is that it can serve as a true learning management system (LMS) that tracks and documents training completion. The LMS not only houses training resources, but provides each learner with a scoreboard that shows the completion status of each module and activity. This may comprise launch training modules, mid-study meetings, protocol amendments, and update training, among other tools.

In addition, the Web site can also allow field monitors to view training information for the sites they manage. The LMS serves as a central database that documents training activity across a clinical trial or even a series of trials. This documentation can be invaluable in proving to regulators that adequate training was provided to protect the safety of patients in clinical trials.

Lower costs It costs about $2,000 for a single participant to attend an on-site investigator meeting. The per-capita cost of a training e-portal is more variable, driven by the number of target learners and the richness of the Web site. Generally, though, a high-quality e-portal can impart similar training for a fraction of the cost of an on-site meeting.

Final Thoughts

By now it's fair to say that many companies have completed "concept testing" of e-meeting and e-portal systems, and these programs are ready for broader use. From a training perspective, they have been proven to correct many flaws of the typical investigator meeting—from tracking what investigators have learned to being able to include more participants. E-meetings and e-portals also provide practical benefits in convenience, time savings, audience preferences, and lowered costs.

It stands to reason that if study site staffs are better trained, they will be more prepared to enroll patients in a trial, and then perform those trials more quickly, consistently, and efficiently. This is where the re-engineered investigator meeting can make a big contribution to the ultimate goal of research productivity.

Bill Cooney is founder and CEO of MedPoint Communications in Evanston, Illinois. He can be reached at


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