After a year of performing clinical monitoring and many other research activities remotely, many sites are finally reopening. However, some of the new ways of working we’ve pivoted to out of necessity during the pandemic seem likely to become a more permanent part of clinical monitoring.
Remote monitoring has the potential to offer greater flexibility and convenience while reducing costs in many cases. At the same time, some activities are still better suited for on-site interactions.
At IMARC Research, we wanted to find out how other researchers felt about the future of clinical monitoring. We conducted a survey of over 100 research professionals to gather their input on how they’ve adapted, what challenges they’ve experienced, and how they feel about embracing a hybrid approach.
We outlined our findings in detail in a new whitepaper, along with recommendations for shifting to this new model.
Here are some of the highlights.
Nearly 75% Of Researchers Are Now Conducting On-Site Visits
While many sites struggled to adjust for at least the first few months of the pandemic, our survey showed most have resumed at least some on-site activities (presumably with safety protocols in place.)
However, we haven’t necessarily seen a widespread return yet.
Twenty percent said they frequently conduct on-site visits. Thirty percent said they sometimes do, while another 26% said they rarely do.
Most Believe A Hybrid Approach To Clinical Monitoring Is The Way Forward
Prior to the pandemic, fewer than 12% of survey respondents said they frequently conducted remote monitoring visits. Over 66% said they rarely or never did.
One year after states implemented the first stay-at-home orders, those numbers have completely reversed. Today, 60% of researchers said they frequently conducted remote monitoring visits, while 30% said they sometimes do.
Additionally, 73% said they believe a hybrid approach is the future of clinical monitoring.
Training Teams On New Technology Is A Significant Challenge
As teams transitioned to remote clinical monitoring, they implemented new technologies such as electronic file-sharing and virtual meeting and collaboration software.
Nearly one-third of teams (27%) introduced file-sharing software in the past year, while over half (53%) implemented virtual meeting and collaboration solutions.
However, technology did not immediately solve their problems. In some cases, it introduced new ones.
Over 50% of survey respondents said managing and training their teams to use these new tools was the greatest challenge they faced with remote monitoring.
Most Teams Don’t Believe Remote Monitoring Hurts Data Quality
We wanted to know if researchers had concerns about the impact of remote monitoring on the quality of their data. However, only 3% of respondents said they believed it had significantly decreased data quality. Another 30% said it somewhat decreased quality.
Almost half (47%) said remote monitoring had no impact on the quality of their data. Interestingly, almost 15% said they believed it somewhat increased data quality, while another 5% said the improvement was significant.
While it’s unclear what led to these perceived improvements, remote monitoring can make it easier for multiple people to review data more efficiently. This could be one reason why some researchers believe it helped them produce better quality data.
Remote Monitoring Is Often More Cost-Effective — But Not Always
There is a perception that remote clinical monitoring reduces costs because it eliminates travel time and can allow monitors to work more efficiently.
However, our research showed that isn’t always the case. After factoring in new technology investment, training, and other costs associated with implementing remote monitoring, 12% said it had somewhat increased their costs, while another 9% characterized the increase as significant. Approximately 25% said it had no impact on costs.
Thirty percent said remote monitoring somewhat decreased their costs, while 23% said the decrease was significant.
How To Successfully Switch To A Hybrid Approach To Clinical Monitoring
While remote monitoring offers many benefits, there are plenty of situations that call for in-person observation or would ideally involve face-to-face conversations.
Most researchers seem to prefer a combination of both remote and on-site visits.
Navigating this transition requires rethinking current processes to determine which activities might be conducted more efficiently remotely, compared to in person.
IMARC has over 20 years of experience conducting both in-person and remote monitoring, auditing, training, and more. We can help sponsors and sites develop a strategy that sets them up for long-term success in this new era.
For a detailed look at our findings and recommendations for moving forward, download our whitepaper, How To Succeed With A Hybrid Approach To Clinical Monitoring.