Being a part of a team means always being able to rely on the expertise and experience of others. That combination of talent, experiences and lessons learned allows teams to deliver better results and avoid the pitfalls that can come when individuals try to do everything on their own.

The same may soon be true for clinical research sites.

For decades most sites have operated as stand-alone facilities. And while they may be reliable and familiar as independent operations, they can’t achieve economies of scale because every project they deliver, and every upgrade they make must be supported entirely within their own operation. That is not to say these sites don’t do a great job, but working on their own they don’t always have the resources or experience to achieve desired efficiency gains.

To overcome this shortcoming, many research sites are joining networks that help them harness the power of their collective knowledge and resources to improve operations and better integrate research into patient care. By working together, these sites are able to invest in more innovative technology, and share knowledge and best practices to improve their delivery. Such networks not only deliver benefits to the sites, they also generate greater value for sponsors in several ways:

  • Better technology. Networked sites can share the cost of technology upgrades, which lessens the individual capital expense, and gives them the buying power to negotiate better deals with vendors. As a result, these networks are more likely to have the latest tools, including trial management systems, online training tools, and feasibility tools. These tools add quality, efficiency and consistency to their projects, which directly benefits the sponsor.
  • A larger recruiting population. By working as a network they can access shared databases of patients so that every project can recruit from a much broader population. They can also take advantage of relationships with physicians and patient advocacy groups across the network, which enables them to ramp up recruiting more quickly, and shorten the time to begin delivering results.
  • One contact, many sites. Sponsors working with site networks will have a single point of contact for every project regardless of where the research is being conducted. This makes communication and risk management easier for the sites and for the sponsors, and reduces the risk that requests will go unanswered.
  • Consistent experience. Networked research sites establish best practices and standard operating procedures for every location, including recruiting processes, contract formats, risk-management strategies, communication protocols, etc. This means clients will have the same experience regardless of which site they work with.
  • Support for newbies. Sites that are new to clinical research, or those that have a niche research focus benefit from the collective wisdom of the group. By joining a network, they can access experts who will help them ramp-up their operation and ensure their staff have the necessary training and support they need to deliver a quality research program.
  • Quality assurance. By working together, these networked sites can set expectations for performance and oversight for their members, giving clients the confidence that every site in the network will deliver the same quality of service.

The benefits of networked clinical research sites aren’t hypothetical. Since 2011, QuintilesIMS data shows that networks represented more than half of our top 10 recruiting sites in the US. At last year’s MAGI West Conference, I gave a presentation on the evolving site landscape and the increasingly important role these networks play in driving efficiencies and quality into the research process.

The advantages of networks, coupled with our focus on helping sites integrate research into patient care, led to our recent launch of Qcare, a site services provider that takes site networking to the next level by providing full-service administrative support to research sites, including research coordinators, regulatory support, contracting, and patient recruitment expertise.

The goal of Qcare is to take the administrative burden off of sites, enable them to plug into a larger network, and give them access to the QuintilesIMS pipeline of studies. It creates a bridge for sites that excel in patient care to expand their research operations and take advantage of the expertise and infrastructure that a site network can provide. This benefits the sites, the patients, and sponsors who will have access to an increasingly broad network of preferred locations with the confidence that all provide the same quality of service.