CATEGORIES: Limitations; Technology; Virtual investigator meeting
There is often a requirement to bring investigators together during a clinical trial and such meetings are increasingly being conducted online (virtual investigator meetings), as opposed to face-to-face. Reduced costs and increased convenience are the major drivers for this shift, meaning that the overall burden of investigator meetings is less for both the sponsors and the investigators. Common technologies used to conduct the virtual meetings include standard web conferencing software (e.g. WebEx or Skype), or even straightforward teleconferencing for participants that do not own webcams or have access to the relevant programmes. However, virtual interactive(Vi) technology represents a new alternative to these ‘traditional’ formats.
Lack of investigator engagement is a regularly cited problem for virtual investigator meetings. By the nature of remote access, it is difficult to establish a human connection during online meetings without all participants appearing on camera and without each individual having the opportunity to actively contribute.
Teleconferencing is the most extreme example of impersonal communication during meetings, especially those meetings that only comprise a one-way broadcast of information. Teleconferencing alone also makes it difficult for participants to interject into meetings because it is awkward to identify natural pauses and to gain the attention of the moderator. The same problems apply to standard web conferencing, which can also be impersonal if some or all attendees do not appear on camera.
Ultimately, the sponsor has no way of knowing whether each participant has attended the entire meeting or understood its contents. With ubiquitous platforms, it is also tempting for the sponsor to invite too many participants to each virtual meeting, adding to the impersonal nature of the event and detracting from wealth of opportunities that exist when multiple experts are convened within the same forum.
Virtual interactive investigator meetings add new dimensions to online meetings, using customised interactions to ensure 100% participation and continuous active engagement throughout an entire meeting. In addition, all participating investigators appear on camera and have opportunity to interact with each other. The platform is fully serviced by a combination of scientific and technical experts and participants can typically access a meeting without the need to download any additional software (which is often prohibited within institutions). Virtual interactive investigator meetings provide a solutions-driven approach to improve investigator engagement and increase the level of feedback to the sponsor.