The use of virtual training through web-based meetings existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic made web-based on-demand training the new norm, particularly for clinical trials.
This shift allows us to compare online site training to in-person training, and the results are dramatic. Based on our work with clients, WCG Trifecta found that delivering on-demand training reduces training costs by 60%, cuts site training time by 50%, and gets enrollment started 55 days faster.
Why is there such a significant difference? It comes down to redundancy. Site training content often overlaps from study to study, and clinical site teams frequently must complete training for a new trial that is identical or nearly identical to training they've previously completed for another project. This is not only wasteful, but frustrating for investigators and site staff.
Eliminate redundancy, and you solve both problems. Consider the experience of one biopharma sponsor using virtual site training: Over four years working with Trifecta, clinical site staff were exempted from 98,166 hours of redundant training. That’s more than 4,000 days.
That represents just one aspect of the larger cost-savings picture. The savings on air travel, lodging, dining, and other expenses connected with an in-person meeting are substantial. Sponsors can then invest those savings into more training or other aspects of clinical development.
Additionally, virtual training offers an array of other benefits:
- Convenience. Because anyone from a site can attend, attendance is higher. Budget considerations often limit the numbers of participants in in-person training. Some people can’t travel, so they often miss out on training. Not only will you have more individuals attending—you’ll also have more sites. It’s common to see 100% of sites represented at a virtual meeting; that rarely happens with an on-site gathering.
- Flexibility and speed. Virtual training meetings can be on-demand. Sites can do training at their own speed and on their own schedules. It’s much easier, for instance, to shift the dates for training. Some sponsors have put together virtual training in weeks—even days. These quick turnarounds are especially important for amendment training.
- Easier onboarding of new staff. On-demand training can be delivered right away as part of the staff initiation process.
No “Death by PowerPoint”
You’ve probably heard the complaint, “‘Oh, it's virtual. It's going to be boring. No one's going to interact. Participants will be multi-tasking.” But here’s the open secret: People multitask at on-site training sessions, too. They get bored. Presenters can be dull.
But let’s accept that lack of engagement is a greater concern in the virtual setting. We have many ways in virtual training to keep things engaging, including interactive quizzes and polls. Quizzes introduce a level of friendly competition and, at the same time, they assess just how well the attendees are absorbing the material and identify potential gaps in learning.
Designated Q&A time is essential to engagement. In the on-demand model, it’s simply a matter of scheduling stand-alone, live Q&A sessions. These have become increasingly popular this past year.
As sponsor organizations begin to approach virtual training as more than merely a stopgap measure, they need to focus on certain critical implementation considerations.
Keep Content Concise and Targeted
Developing training for delivery in a virtual environment, either live or on-demand, requires a focused approach to content development. The primary objectives and the endpoints of the study should drive that content, and training should address elements of the protocol that carry the most risk. Focus on risk mitigation, not on self-explanatory operational instructions.
In other words, it’s essential to distill the training to the essentials: risk mitigation, necessary tasks and intended outcomes. The more the training attempts to cover every aspect of the protocol, the more weighed down the trainee becomes, and the training may become counter-productive. The training needs to be simple, easy to digest, focused, and purposeful.
Don’t Contribute to the Site Burden
Training solutions should never add to the stress or workload of clinical site staff. It should make the task of training easier, not more difficult. Access to the training should be streamlined and password protected, and technical assistance should be immediately available.
Listen to Your Sites
Considering the voice of the site is critical. Successful sites have insights that can help struggling sites get up to speed. Ask prominent investigators in the study or in the therapeutic areas to provide feedback and information that could be included during the live Q&A sessions. Listen to the feedback from sites and address concerns during live meetings.
Centralize Training Materials and Documentation
On-demand training and the training associated with the protocol must be accessible by 24/7/365. All live sessions, including the stand-alone Q&As, should be recorded and transcribed so salient question and answers can be housed in the on-demand training platform for ongoing access. Store FAQ documents, newsletters, etc. here. In addition, all study training documentation should be in one location. This is important for accessibility in general and for audits.
Think Beyond Training
With the right platform, sponsors can connect with sites in ways that make more efficient use of everyone’s time. For instance, virtual site initiation visits can be more efficient than face-to-face ones. It also offers a more effective way to conduct internal training.
Find the Right Fit
Some training probably needs to be done face-to-face, especially when a hands-on approach is required. The key is to choose the right modality for the training. Once you succeed with a particular approach, keep using it. But before settling on the modality that works best for you, be sure to find out what works for the site.
Technology has given us improved methods to deliver clinical trial training and to collaborate with our sponsor partners, with research organizations, with vendors and with the clinical site staff, and the pandemic has given us the opportunity to test them. Now, it’s time to take what we’ve learned and begin to connect in new and better ways, making our training—and perhaps all our interactions—more fruitful.
Want to learn more about WCG Trifecta’s virtual site training solutions? Click here to request a demo.