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Behind the Scenes: In-house vs. Outsourced Clinical Trial Websites


May 17, 2019

Behind the Scenes: A Patient-Engagement Perspective
on In-house vs. Outsourced Clinical Trial Websites

A sponsor’s clinical trial website should be about more than just recruitment, says Liz Beatty. It should educate patients. It should be about patient engagement. It should help patients throughout the clinical trial journey – before, during and after. And it should offer content not just for patients but for caregivers, physicians, researchers, and the general public.

Beatty, a digital health adviser and independent consultant, knows firsthand what it takes to develop and maintain a sponsor’s dedicated clinical trials website. She worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb for 16 years, most recently as Director of Digital Clinical Trials.

Beatty has been working with TrialScope since January to help shape new features and product roadmaps for TrialScope Engage. This transparency and health literacy solution enables sponsors to communicate study information with the public via dedicated clinical trial websites.

“Liz’s experience building a clinical trial website from scratch is invaluable to us,” says TrialScope CEO Jeff Kozloff. “She literally has ‘been there, done that.’ We can learn from both her challenges and successes along the way.”

Starting from scratch is easier said than done, says Beatty. Development of a website translates into many different decisions around the “build vs. buy” discussion. “If you build something, you hope it will meet all your requirements,” she says.

Comparing a home-grown website to TrialScope Engage, Beatty says TrialScope offers a turnkey solution, yet it’s customizable. “You’re not getting a ‘canned’ solution,” she explains. “It’s the best of both worlds. You get an accelerated development timeline plus the ability to customize the solution so that it’s really what your organization wants and needs.”

Time is of the essence

Templates are one reason websites powered by TrialScope Engage have a shortened development timeframe. However, these templates do not produce “cookie cutter” websites. Each site reflects the unique branding of the sponsor. Beatty says the design templates reflect “the best of what’s out there in the industry.” She adds that the TrialScope team has taken the time to research industry trends, to understand user experience, and to look at the approaches of other early adopter pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Lilly. In developing its TrialScope Engage offering, TrialScope partnered with patients, advocacy groups and communication experts to design an engaging interface that delivers relevant, easy-to-understand trial information via a consumer-friendly user-experience.

Beatty compares building a clinical trials website using TrialScope Engage vs. working with a web design agency. “It is important that you work with a team who has design expertise, technical capabilities and a deep understanding of clinical research,” she says, “TrialScope already has the regulatory and clinical trial expertise. TrialScope Engage was not created in a vacuum; a great deal of user research was conducted. It takes months to do that correctly.” That’s why, when using a system integrator or agency approach, it can take up to a year to launch the website. With TrialScope Engage, depending on the complexity of the website, a sponsor could have a clinical trial website up and running in as little as three months.

“TrialScope’s expertise is a really important accelerator,” she notes.

Cost considerations

When working with an agency, that extra research also can bump up the price tag on a website. Beatty says the cost is significant, largely driven by the scope, the custom infrastructure development needs and features required for a patient engagement/recruitment platform.

Beatty says another cost consideration is the focus on launching the current project. “When you work with an agency, once the project is complete, the team rolls off of the project to support other work.” The sponsor must either maintain the site on its own or pay for a site redesign/refresh over time.  

As with all TrialScope products, Kozloff points out that “People often overlook the maintenance and enhancement phases of programs like these. Launching the site is a huge milestone, but maintaining and providing an ongoing, engaging and accurate patient experience is paramount.”

And with TrialScope Engage, because the platform was designed to support multiple sponsors, development costs can be shared across sponsors. Of course, a sponsor can opt to take a hybrid approach: Use an agency-created website design with the TrialScope Engage platform.

The platform is a plus

“I think the platform itself is where TrialScope really differentiates itself,” says Beatty. “TrialScope is already managing the clinical trial postings for many sponsors – obtaining study information, vetting and posting it to CTgov and EudraCT. TrialScope Disclose customers can leverage this existing product that integrates with their clinical trial websites to engage patients and make it easy to find trials.” Sponsors that are not TrialScope customers can use an API or other means to pull data from or another data source.

Beatty says building a clinical trial website from scratch can require a lot of internal resources to form  teams of internal experts who will shape the research and determine the features the sponsor wants to develop. With TrialScope, Beatty says, “You don’t need to rely so heavily on the internal teams.”  Although TrialScope Engage is a turnkey solution, some internal resources are still needed. But due to TrialScope’s platform and expertise, the customer is much further ahead in the process from the get-go, taking the burden off the sponsor’s internal team.

Beatty says TrialScope Engage is about more than just posting available clinical trials. “It’s the plain-language summaries, it’s publication information. It’s all of the information people are looking for regarding clinical trials, both when someone is interested in participating and after the trial. It’s bringing access to information all the way through to when the results are available, all in one place.”

Beatty sees this as the tip of the transparency iceberg. “It’s really telling where we’re going in the industry. We’re really pushing the envelope to provide much greater access to clinical trial information broadly to the public.”