Next Generation of Clinical Trial Portals: Building Communities

The CBI’s 3rd Summit on Clinical Trial Investigator Portals event in Philadelphia. The gathering drew an array of members from the pharmaceutical, biotech and CRO industries to discuss and share strategies for using portals to share clinical research information.


7 June 2011

The CBI’s 3rd Summit on Clinical Trial Investigator Portals event in Philadelphia. The gathering drew an array of members from the pharmaceutical, biotech and CRO industries to discuss and share strategies for using portals to share clinical research information.

While there were sponsors and CROs at the conference who were just beginning to test the portal waters, a significant number had already made sizable investments into home grown portals. Now on their first, second or next generation portal, many have realized they were focused on their own needs and not necessarily on those of the end users. The conference gave attendees an ideal opportunity to explore the perspective of the clinical investigator—beyond gathering their feedback, but actually using their insights to incorporate into their clinical portal plans.

Investigators in attendance were highly receptive, and in some cases genuinely excited about being considered partners in the portal development process. This caught my attention and was the catalyst for some particularly interesting conversations during the event. It was clear that sponsors are coming full circle and thinking about their portals as more than just tools for exchanging and managing documents, but as integral components for building and strengthening relationships with Contract Research Organizations (CROs), investigators, and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). Some forward thinking companies I spoke with are extending their scope and reach to define a “holistic interaction strategy” for all their external partners. Here were a few things I overheard at the event:

  • “We need to build a process, not just a portal, that helps the organization as well as investigators and CROs”
  • “We thought about how [the portal] would impact us, but as a large company we didn’t think about the impact on the investigator”
  • “Working within yourself is not a competitive advantage; it’s a competitive disadvantage”

When I introduced the concept of the “clinical community” I got a lot of heads nodding. The model suggests that for the overall success of clinical trials the clinical portal should be designed to service the entire community of participants — investigative sites, sponsors, CROs, and IRBs/ECs. Furthermore, beyond thinking about what functionality the clinical portal should have, sponsors and CROs must consider the impact many different portals have on an investigative site. Highly performing sites are inundated with passwords, alerts that don’t help them understand the trigger and the resolution and other inefficiencies.

A community-based portal is an approach that consists of all sponsors using a single, web-based portal for external clinical document exchange that is secure and easy-to-understand. Users have one interface to learn and one username and password to remember. The impact is simplification, which translates to increased operational efficiency, enhanced site–sponsor relationships and improved competitive advantage. For a true holistic approach, a community-based portal, such as Intralinks, can be easily integrated with a sponsor’s existing clinical systems.

The best part of the event was hearing many attendees desire to continue the community building conversation — folks did not want to wait until CBI’s 4th annual summit for a forum to go deeper on the subject. I’m excited to see how this community works together and the impact we can have on reaching the next generation of clinical portals.

I’ll be at the DIA Annual Meeting in Chicago later this month and look forward to more discussions about building communities and improving the clinical trial experience.