CATEGORIES: Limitations; Platforms; Teleconferencing; Virtual investigator meeting; Web conferencing
There has been a recent drive towards virtual investigator meetings in preference to face-to-face alternatives. This transition is understandable, given that the virtual approach saves on travel and accommodation costs and causes minimal disruption to investigators / site teams. However, anyone considering virtual meetings for their clinical trial should be aware of the limitations associated with standard technology platforms (e.g. WebEx).
The major limitation of WebEx (that is also a major pitfall of poorly-conducted face-to-face meetings) is lack of participant engagement. Investigator meetings are convened, at significant expense, for the purpose of delivering information to study investigators/sites with maximum levels of comprehension, yet it is rare for the study management team to understand what – if anything – has been achieved at the end of a WebEx meeting. Within such a passive environment, it is relatively easy for investigators to sit through an entire meeting without speaking or even clicking their mouse; in the extreme example, it is conceivable that the participants could be attending to matters elsewhere whilst still appearing as ‘present’ online. In short, a passive virtual investigator meeting has the potential to perpetuate investigator apathy and negatively influence study performance.
A further limitation of WebEx is motivational. Investigator meetings are intended to motivate study sites during their participation throughout a trial, leading to increased recruitment and superior site-performance overall. Often; however, the opposite is achieved in WebEx meetings, with multiple investigators and their teams sitting through a steady one-way stream of information over the course of many hours.
In order to overcome these limitations, it will be essential for virtual investigator meetings to maximise active participation and promote continuous two-way engagement. In line with this goal, the recent emergence of the virtual interactive (Vi) format represents a significant advance and opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to improve the value of virtual investigator meetings, beyond what the standard formats can offer.