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June 29, 2023

New for 2024: the ultimate guide to successful virtual investigator meetings

Virtual investigator meetings in the pharma industry set a new paradigm for success.
virtual investigator meetings

In the pharma industry, an investigator meeting is conducted on behalf of the trial sponsor or CRO to train investigators and their lead clinical trial staff. These meetings are specific to one trial, but a reasonably standard agenda includes topics like standard operating procedures, adverse event reporting, and documentation.

Investigator meetings:

  • Ensure investigators understand how to conduct the trial properly
  • Acquaint investigators with all the required forms, procedures, and regulations
  • Introduce the study protocol in detail
  • Establish communication among investigators

Investigator meetings are important because the trial sponsor or CRO can instruct investigators and other trial staff on any anticipated issues they may face and how they should be addressed. This instruction may be critical to the success or failure of the clinical study.

We’ve got a proven playbook for better investigator meetings.

What are the benefits of virtual investigator meetings?

Although essential, investigator meetings can come under criticism for their cost and because they might be perceived as a benefit the investigator receives, rather than simply an opportunity to administer a clinical investigator training program.

Organizations can reap the benefits of pharma investigator meetings without travel or additional costs. Virtual investigator meetings help trial sponsors overcome obstacles like conflicting schedules, no-shows, and budget overruns. And while live virtual meetings like those held on Zoom or similar platforms have some benefits, they also have limitations and don’t offer the best engagement quality.

Enhancing collaboration and engagement in virtual settings

Unlike live virtual meetings, asynchronous virtual investigator meetings create an equitable forum where everyone has time to contribute and review resources on their schedule.

How does this impact collaboration and engagement?

  • When investigators can participate in training and meetings around their other commitments, they are more likely to attend
  • An asynchronous format often makes people feel more comfortable asking questions
  • In some platforms, trial sponsors can send automated reminders to encourage participation

Cost savings and efficiency gains: the advantages of going virtual

When trial sponsors and CROs embrace asynchronous engagement, there is an upfront cost for technology. However, organizations will save on travel and accommodation costs. There’s also no chance that meetings will be viewed as extra benefits outside the needs of typical training.

Hard costs aren’t the only way trial sponsors will reduce costs. They’ll also be more efficient through saved time and a more effective way to solicit input and complete training. Virtual investigator meetings in pharma have implications far beyond money and time saved, though: trial sponsors can also use a virtual approach to strengthening patient recruitment and to optimize clinical trial design.

Overcoming geographical constraints: connecting investigators worldwide

In-person and live meetings require intense logistics. Planners must account for travel time or differences in time zones; even with careful planning, some attendees may be unable to participate. This can have an unfortunate effect on meetings and conversations.

Diversity of thought and experience is critical to trial success. Understanding the specific needs of different regions and patient populations can differentiate between a successful protocol and one that needs multiple amendments. Asynchronous virtual meetings allow trial sponsors to engage any investigator or expert they need to create a successful trial.

Key considerations for planning virtual investigator meetings

Trial sponsors have a lot to gain through adopting virtual investigator meetings. To succeed with this approach, teams should carefully select a platform that supports their workflows.

Choosing the right virtual meeting platform

Most teams will have access to virtual meeting tools like Zoom or Teams. These are fine for internal admin and quick check-ins, but won’t support more complex work like training or protocol design. Pharma teams should consider:

  • Technology that is designed for the life science industry
  • A platform with familiar features, such as those found in most social media platforms
  • Tools that prioritize compliance and security
  • Solutions that offer comprehensive support before, during, and after engagements

Securing participant engagement

Trial sponsor teams may feel that in-person or live virtual meetings offer more accountability from participants. However, people tend to multitask in both environments, potentially missing important information. It’s also difficult to gauge whether participants are absorbing the information being shared.

Asynchronous engagement platforms include features to improve participation, including customized email digests and scheduled messages that remind people to log in and complete various tasks. Moderators can also encourage investigators to elaborate on comments, share their impressions of information shared, or contribute to documents and other resources.

Best practices for successful virtual investigator meetings

Virtual investigator meetings include a large amount of critical information. Therefore, it’s essential to create an engaging meeting based on resources participants can access after completing training or a discussion.

Overcoming challenges in virtual investigator meetings

One of the challenges inherent in investigator meetings is the timeline. Participants may need to recall or access important information several months after the meeting during patient recruitment and enrollment. It’s unlikely they’ll remember content that is simply distributed in the form of documents or slides.

In a virtual meeting platform, trial sponsors can use different question types to vary how learning content is presented. Open-ended questions, polls, multiple-choice questions, videos, and other types of content can overcome some of the biggest roadblocks to absorbing and retaining information.

Mitigating participant fatigue: strategies for engaged attendees

Experienced asynchronous engagement solution vendors know that in-person tactics don’t always translate to virtual environments. Within3 has more than a decade of experience and best practices that are proven to reduce the risk of participant fatigue while increasing the quality of discussion and insights.

Strategies to avoid fatigue include:

  • Establishing clear goals at the beginning of the asynchronous meeting
  • Splitting meeting content into shorter modules organized around a theme
  • Rolling out questions in a staggered cadence – two per day or 10 per week, for example – to make tasks more manageable
  • Determining a reasonable schedule for email digests and reminders

Participation is the fuel that powers successful virtual meetings. When participants know what to expect and when, they are more likely to return often, complete required tasks, and participate meaningfully.

Measuring success and continuous improvement

Once your team decides on a virtual investigator meeting, ensure you have the ability to measure the effectiveness of the new approach.

How can you measure the success of a virtual investigator meeting vs. in person? You might choose to look at participation, training module completion, or knowledge retention. Your team should also solicit feedback from participants. Ask about all aspects of their experience: accessibility, quality of training or discussion, and ease of use.

Once you’ve decided on your key performance indicators to establish a baseline and requested participant feedback, leverage what you’ve learned to create even more successful meetings in the future.

Conclusion: embracing the future of investigator meetings

Trial sponsors have developed a higher appetite for virtual tactics in the last several years. Decentralized trials are one example of how clinical trial activities can benefit from a more tech-enabled and less travel-dependent type of clinical study. As the pharma industry explores more applications for virtual interaction, virtual investigator meetings stand to increase in popularity.

Trial sponsors should be prepared to offer this option to investigators at all stages of protocol development, patient recruitment and enrollment, and training. Explore our clinical trial design and operations applications to learn more about how clinical teams use insights management technology.


Applied Clinical Trials. How to increase engagement.
James Lind Institute. Investigator meeting in clinical trials.
Clinical Trials Guru. What are investigator meetings in clinical research.

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