Monday, 3 January 2011

A True Investigator Meeting

Today I would like to draw your attention to a thought provoking column in the December issue of The Monitor, the publication of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP). Dr. Joel S. Ross, MD, entitled his column "Investigating Investigator Meetings" (Page 84-85).

For members of the ACRP, you can read the article online here.

Dr. Ross in his column puts some critical notes to "practically invisible PIs" at investigator meetings. PIs who "blend into the furniture in the conference room", and asks out loud how they "reach the point of being so poorly prepared for the investigator meeting". He continues outlining how a "true PI" would prepare, versus the "practically invisible PI".

Rather than what his title suggests, the column is more about how a PI should prepare to be ready to start prescreening, screening and randomising eligible subjects than about investigator meetings. Although the link from this to investigator meetings is not made in so many words in his conclusion, Dr. Ross kind of makes the assertion that preparation for the one, should prepare a "true PI" for the other.

In this blog, I would like to add my perspective to his subtitle "With apologies to Shakespeare, 'To attend, or not to attend, meetings with the sponsor: That is the question'", addressing this from the angle of the sponsor.

Because indeed, the question 'to attend or not to attend' investigator meetings is a common question in clinical research. Where Dr. Ross makes the argument that if you attend, you should be well prepared to add benefit to the meeting, there is also a good argument to make for sponsors to make the investigator meetings more appealing to attend.

And here I don't mean by holding those meetings in exotic locations or providing an interesting evening (social) programme, though I can certainly appreciate the importance of providing opportunity for the participants to less formally discuss the trial other topics.

What I'm asserting is that sponsor companies often fail to cash in on the enormous potential that an investigator meeting has. Where the common purpose of an investigator meeting is to educate participants on the protocol and procedures, to provide a platform for discussion about the protocol, as well as to motivate all site staff present to commit to the trial at hand, the common format is commonly all but educational and certainly not motivational.

The average investigator meeting is a parade of presentations, one-way communications, where a conference room is often darkened to allow for better visual presentations and better naps. The organisation of an investigator meeting is often assigened to members of the clinical team who are already working overtime to start up the trial They get the organisation of the meeting as an added bonus. Presenters are often the subject matter experts (SMEs), who are, with all due respect, often not the best presenters. This does not do justice to the meeting, nor does it demonstrate respect for the time investment made the participants.

A True IM (Investigator Meeting) is set up with in mind the audience. It covers the topics knowing that the target audience is site staff and thus approaches it from their perspective, actively demonstrating how this is important for them. How the information applies to their job and answering the imagined questions the audience could have, before giving them the floor to come with further questions. It should not contain information the sponsor wants to share, but information the audience needs to know. The SMEs don't have to do the presenting, if they're not captivating presenters. As long as they're present for the best answers to challenging questions, a good presenter will be able to draw those questions by getting the audience interested.

Yes, investigators should come well prepared and ready to ask good questions, just as much as the sponsor should run the meeting well prepared, inviting, if not challenging the audience to come with good questions.

So, in the spirit of Dr. Ross' column about the "True PI", some points for a "True IM".

A True IM is interesting
A True IM is interactive
A True IM has two-way communication
A True IM has practical sessions
A True IM captivates the audience
A True IM involves the audience
A True IM is a platform for discsussion
A True IM has the lights on all day (in the room and in the eyes)
A True IM has proper follow up, including a Q&A from the meeting
A True IM respects all attending

Most of all:
A True IM is educational
A True IM is motivational wow gold

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