Behind the Scenes of Clinical Trials: Interview with A Former Clinical Research Coordinator

Behind the Scenes of Clinical Trials: Interview with A Former Clinical Research Coordinator

With National Clinical Trials Day coming up, we’re highlighting the people behind clinical trials and are extremely appreciative of the important work they do.  

One of the biggest strengths at our company is our employees’ extensive knowledge of the clinical trial process and healthcare systems. Many of us have years of prior experience in research or healthcare which helps us create better products and a great user experience.  

Ify Okafor is a Clinical Application Specialist at Deep 6 and has an extensive background in clinical research. We spoke with her about her experience, how she’s implementing her knowledge and the future of clinical trials.  

Tell us about your background as a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) working on clinical trials. 

I worked in clinical research for about four years, during that time transitioning from a CRC to managing a team. As a CRC I worked on one trial at a time. As a manager, I oversaw about 10 trials at a time, most recently in neurology research.   

What were your primary responsibilities as a CRC? 

My focus was the recruitment and screening of patients to determine eligibility for clinical trials. From there, I would pass them on to physicians, who consulted with their patients about potential trial participation. We would also manage physician referrals about potential matches for trials.

When screening, we would rely on the hospital’s electronic medical records (EMR) and read a patient’s detailed file to see if they met the trial’s criteria. Reviewing one patient’s records would often take four hours. And patients often were not eligible, so it was a time intensive process.  

How long would it typically take to find all participants for a trial? 

It can take anywhere from two months to two years depending on the study and the sponsors’ recruitment goals. Each study had a dedicated CRC and we tried to focus on one patient at a time to ensure no mistakes were made during the screening process. The goal was 1-2 weeks to get one patient on a trial, but that can vary by the institution and resources. 

What are some of the challenges that come with the role of a CRC?  

Many hospitals struggle with understaffed research departments. This creates a heavy workload for CRCs and creates a bottleneck in trials. CRCs also face pressure from sponsors who send site monitors to check on the progress of the study and data management regularly. Such visits often increase stress and slows down progress. 

Patient data can be scattered across many systems and applications. What systems did you work with to screen patients?   

The scattered data is why it takes half a day to screen one patient. I had an Excel sheet to keep track of all the systems and passwords! I used various EMRs, radiology reports, lab reports, billing systems and more. Each study also had its own EDC system from the sponsor. I would spend hours toggling between systems to determine if a patient met the eligibility criteria.   

Now that you’re here, how could our platform have changed that process for you as a CRC? 

Our technology makes all the difference. Having all the systems and data consolidated in one place is a game-changer when reviewing patients and validating them for trials. I did everything manually. Now, I work with technology that reviews patients’ EMRs automatically! (And that includes the unstructured EMR data in doctors’ notes that are so important to learning about a patient’s history.) 

I would spend four hours screening one patient, when I could’ve found and validated all the patients for a trial in a couple hours with Deep 6. This means getting patients on studies in two to three weeks versus two to three months! It could be the difference between life and death for someone with an aggressive cancer.  

Having access to Deep 6’s ecosystem of hospital sites and sponsors helps CRCs refer patients to other systems running trials that might be a better fit. Plus, the software makes everyone’s job easier, from CRCs to those sponsoring the studies. The visibility we give sponsors would reduce the inefficiency of constantly reporting back to them. I believe Deep 6 software should be a best practice to make clinical research more efficient. 

Last question: what’s something you would tell other CRCs who are working with traditional systems and processes? 

Your job doesn’t have to be so time consuming and complex! Talk to your supervisor and give our software a try. Your workflow will be much more efficient, patient screening can be done in minutes, not hours, and you’ll have more visibility with your sponsors. You’ll never look back!   

Thanks, Ify! 

To learn more about our platform and how we can improve your clinical research process, contact us here