Why remote work lends itself well to clinical sector roles20 Feb, 20238 minutes
In 2011 Pfizer conducted a world-first fully “virtual” trial. In the space of a decade, dec...
In 2011 Pfizer conducted a world-first fully “virtual” trial. In the space of a decade, decentralised trials have moved from being an experimental approach to a commonplace trial design. The last few years have brought a shake up in the traditional clinical trial requirements that have been standardised for decades. This increase in decentralisation has been enabled through adoption of telemedicine, digital healthcare interfaces, wearables, and other technology, meaning that more trials can and are taking place entirely remotely – and clinical professionals are able to benefit from the flexibility of remote work just as those in other sectors have.
Why remote work lends itself well to the clinical sector.
Since the pandemic, decentralised trials have risen in popularity, with 76% of life science organisations reporting that at least some of their trials have already been decentralised. Tech used in these trials, such as wearable sensors and other monitoring devices that can be operated in the patient’s home, have enabled them to progress without the need for in-person monitoring or on-site activities.
This type of tech and trial innovation has led to increased flexibility and convenience for patient participants, but also means more flexibility can be extended to staff on the study too. Study startup specialists, clinical research associates and right through to clinical trial leadership roles can now be conducted either fully or partially remotely; now, around 76% of CRAs conduct most of their monitoring visits remotely, and 97% of trial sponsors are using software to enable remote data reviews.
The ability to link remotely with sites is now the top priority for trial sponsors when investing in trial enablement technology, which reflects the benefits the sector has experienced through trial decentralisation in recent years.
Benefits for you and your workforce of embracing remote work and decentralisation.
Access to talent
A core benefit of remote work in the clinical sector is increased access to specialised talent. By nature, employees involved in clinical research trials are often required to have a niche knowledge set, which already makes the talent pool to headhunt from relatively small.
Searching by proximity to a trial site leaves you with an even more limited talent pool. With remote work, sites can be staffed and monitored by the best and brightest candidates from anywhere in the world in theory, and physical location becomes less of a barrier to progressing a project.
Widening a search with the intent to hire remotely can help address workforce shortages within clinical disciplines and provide access to highly specialised professionals who may not be available locally to trial sites.
Working remotely has the added benefit of enhanced safety, which has become even more of a priority for sponsors since the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential hazards can be significantly diminished by allowing employees to work from even a different room or a completely different location. With the pandemic fresh in everyone’s minds, the danger of viral infection is an obvious example of a risk that will be minimised. Additionally, the need for costly and time-consuming hygiene protocols can be reduced.
Enhancing the safety of clinical trials through remote working could also help increase the number of trial participants. Changes in attitudes since the pandemic have left people wary of participating in clinical trials and visiting clinical trial sites. Being able to show potential participants that the remote working methods will be able to heighten safety protocols could result in an increase in the number of participants.
A remote workforce removes the need for some of the large-scale clinical trial facilities, utilities, and other overhead costs, which can drop trial costs by around 25-30%. This is one of the largest benefits remote work can offer the clinical sector, seeing as clinical trials are often one the most expensive parts of bringing a drug to market.
By reducing these overheads you’re able to redirect resources to other areas of the business or for use further down the product development cycle.
How to get the best from your distributed workforce
As the clinical sector continues to evolve and incorporate more remote work options, finding ways to effectively manage and motivate both remote and onsite teams becomes an increasingly relevant part of workplace strategy.
In the clinical sector, teamwork is key for ensuring trials are carried out effectively and efficiently. As a leader, you should encourage team collaboration to ensure that everyone is able to work effectively together, regardless of location. Setting a standard when it comes to cross-collaboration can encourage valuable communication across virtual teams, as well as help to maintain a strong workplace culture. Ensuring the technology is in place for every member of the team to benefit from this, including contractors, is essential.
When it comes to meetings, they should be clear in purpose and used for discussion rather than just disseminating information. When it comes to virtual meetings, you can improve their efficiency and ensure they’re as valuable as possible by:
· Sharing any relevant materials and resources beforehand
· Collecting prior input on the discussion points
· Keeping an eye on the engagement of the attendees throughout
· Using breakout rooms for longer meetings to enable all voices to have their say
Recurring meetings can also be used to set rhythms and routines within your teams, such as the use of a whole company meeting to mark the start of the week or mid-week catchups to share trial updates.
Being a leader in the clinical sector, you should encourage all employees, whether they are working remotely or onsite, to continuously learn and develop their skills. This can be achieved through online training and workshops, mentorship programs, or in-person training sessions for onsite workers. This helps to ensure that all employees are up-to-date on the latest developments in the industry and can contribute effectively to the team's goals, regardless of their location.
Remote work lends itself well to the clinical sector, and its presence is on the rise. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Novartis, and Merck are just a few of the life science giants who are continuing to offer remote or hybrid roles for their teams in the clinical space. With such big names embracing the viability and benefits that remote work can offer in the clinical space, now is the time to have remote-friendly systems and processes in order as a blended and distributed workforce becomes the norm.