Building Happier Study Sites

My absolute favorite book is Cheaper by the Dozen, a fictionalized account of the story of industrial/organizational psychologist Lillian Gilbreth, her husband, and her children.

As an industrial engineer working at General Electric, Lillian interviewed over 4,000 women to better design sinks, stoves, and other kitchen fixtures. Lillian was brilliant at helping industrial engineers see the importance of the psychological and personal dimensions of their work, and was the first American engineer to ever create a true synthesis of psychology and scientific management.

Lillian loved iterating through experiment after experiment, working towards elegant, simple, and efficient solutions to problems. Her success was rooted in her ability to always put people before process.

Happiness-based Design

At Slope our team takes Lillian’s example to heart. We’ve worked with researchers, nurses, and study coordinators at over 140 study sites, using their feedback to help us design better, more people-centric clinical supply chain practices, and increased clinical trial efficiency across multiple therapeutic areas. At the core of everything we do is an understanding that we are here to serve the people making clinical research happen. From lab kits to resupply workflows (and all the touch-points in between), everything we do is influenced by this perspective.

When you design for happiness amazing things happen. By balancing small pleasures along with a higher purpose, happiness-based design delivers a more authentic, personable, curated experience that eliminates friction. Have you ever used a product or service and thought to yourself, “Wow — this feels like it was designed specifically for me!?” That’s happiness-based design in action.

One way we design for happiness at Slope is by delivering a fully integrated and automated clinical supply chain for our clients. But what does that actually mean? By eliminating friction we drive clinical trial efficiency across the whole ecosystem, allowing our clients to focus on the research, not the logistics.

Here’s an Example

One of our clients was eager for a solution that eliminated the administrative burden typically required for keeping study sites properly provisioned with clinical supply kits. Slope created an intelligent, automated dispatch process to resupply their study sites with new ancillary clinical supply kits based upon supply consumption.

Working with the client’s trial protocol and unique requirements, two scenarios were identified in the logistics workflow that could be mapped back to a “trigger” that occurred in one of their clinical data systems:

  1. When the central lab processes a specimen, a replacement supply kit needed to be dispatched to the study site that sent in the sample.
  2. When supplies at a study site were about to expire, a replacement supply kit needed to be dispatched and arrive a month before the expiration date.

Slope’s integration team created a secure channel with the trial’s clinical data systems to receive specimen processing notifications and track expiration dates. When one of these triggers was activated, Slope’s technology platform audited study site kit inventory then directed the dispatch of the appropriate amount of replacement supply kits. All of this worked like a well-oiled robot: automatically and with great precision.

Why It Matters

We use system and vendor integration along with workflow automation as a tool to facilitate happiness-based design for the clients and study sites that we serve. For this trial Slope helped free study sites and the trial’s ClinOps team from the administrative burden of supply management, online portals, and procurement forms, driving happiness and clinical trial efficiency. Suddenly everyone had more time to focus on what really matters: the patients and the research.

A data-driven approach to your clinical supply chain is critical to properly managing the inherent complexity and changing requirements of modern clinical research. Leveraging legacy vendors and antiquated systems that don’t “talk” to each other negatively impacts your study and overall clinical efficiency. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”approach no longer works.

If Lillian taught us anything, it’s that what was once “tried and true” needs to be rethought every once in awhile, if you want to keep moving forward.