Within many industries, automation has a long history of reducing overhead and staff burden while increasing efficiency, productivity, and overall performance. So where are the opportunities for automation to augment research? Below are a few considerations for leveraging automation to supercharge your research studies, increasing participant engagement while freeing up precious time for your team.
Why and what to automate
It goes without saying that clinical research requires a great deal of effort. Reducing the required effort to launch and manage a project enables your team to instead focus on more impactful matters. Some areas to deploy automation include:
- Screening: Rather than having staff review lists of potential participants, screening surveys can be leveraged to have participants self-identify who may be a good candidate for your research. Use automation to invite eligible candidates to your research via email or navigate them immediately to eConsent.
- Enrollment: Leverage eConsent to have participants self-enroll and complete baseline surveys, sparing your team the typical hours involved.
- Data Collection: Take your schedule of assessments and automate it. Schedule out all of your eCOA/survey delivery time points and create automated reminders when incomplete. Passively collect wearable data rather than asking participants to self-report data such as blood pressure, improving data quality. By automating so much data collection, you not only reduce the burden on your team, but allow participants to avoid visits, even if virtual, since they can complete them on their own time.
- Data Export: It’s rather simple, but set up scheduled, recurring data exports to your SFTP server or S3 bucket.
What might you do with the time your team gets back from automation? Consider those participant touchpoints where a human touch has a greater impact, such as helping participants who are less digitally literate and rescuing participants considered lost-to-followup.
Considerations around automation
Automation can sound like a silver bullet, so what’s the catch? Automation doesn’t eliminate the need for staff efforts and study implementation, it simply redirects those efforts to higher value activities. Here are a few things to keep in mind when automating portions of your research:
- Upfront investment: Any platform supporting your research is going to require configuration. While you’ll end up lowering your staff burden throughout the course of a study with automation, you do need to invest more effort up front to reap the rewards. Make sure your team has an increased bandwidth prior to project launch, or seek out temporary resources to help configure your project.
- Personal touch: You’ll still want your team to be available for direct interactions with your participants. Make sure participants can contact you. Exclusive automation, like support call centers where you can’t get a representative on the line, can quickly lead to frustration, risking the participant dropping out. Provide your support email and/or phone number in a prominent manner for participants and make sure they feel connected to you and the research.
- Flexibility: You did it – you configured the automation for your project, but now a participant has a unique scenario that you didn’t account for. Always consider a method for manually overriding automation. It can be something as simple as the ability to manually resend a survey to a participant or to update some key information about them. Using a robust platform that balances automation and manual intervention will lead to greater success in your research project.
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