Clinical research is a team sport. From drug developers to study coordinators to patients (and every role in between) it takes a huge amount of effort and teamwork to help a drug or device achieve commercialization.
In addition to people, clinical trials also require lots of different drugs, devices, lab kits, diagnostic equipment, specimen shippers, and bulk supplies.
These things, which we refer to as inventory are absolutely crucial to the success of a clinical trial. No one is more familiar with the challenges of managing these materials than study sites, the places where the magic of clinical research happens.
Slope recently conducted an expansive global survey to better understand the challenges that study sites face with inventory management. Our survey found:
- 80% of study sites surveyed have too much inventory on hand.
- 77% of study sites report experiencing inventory outages that negatively impacted their patients.
- 88% of study sites surveyed agree that poor inventory management impacts their ability to focus on patient enrollment and retention.
Here are some of the comments we received from surveyed Research Assistants, Study Coordinators, and Trial Managers at sites around the world:
- Managing everything takes time away from actual participant care. It makes me less efficient, which hits my PI’s bottom line.
- I hate the fact that I have to check multiple places to get an accurate inventory count.
- It’s embarrassing when I have to reschedule a patient because of the lab kits (they have not arrived, or the laboratory sent the wrong containers, etc).
- It’s a pain not having enough lab kits to screen patients or having all expired kits when a patient visit occurs.
- It’s frustrating discovering at the last minute that we do not have what we need for a patient visit.
- Labs that have automatic re-supply always send way more than needed.
- The amount of supplies that are sent to my site is ever increasing, leaving us with space issues as well as difficultly tracking supply.
- When we have a lot of studies the lab kits get very confusing because there are so many different ones for different visits. And they all expire at different times. It makes keeping track very time consuming and frustrating.
- The overwhelming volume of extra inventory that we receive makes it difficult to stay on top of expiration dates and organization.
- We oversee over 200 studies and it is a challenge to keep our inventory stocked and up to date.
- We are always struggling to find space for the supplies for our multitude of trials.
- I am unable to always remember the exact amount of supplies I need.
So how does this happen? The explanation is actually quite simple - Sponsors and CROs task study sites with managing and reordering trial inventory but don’t provide tools or training to assist with this difficult task. Sites are left on their own to ensure they always have what they need for upcoming patient visits. Unfortunately most sites aren’t always prepared - we found that over 75% of study sites have no policies or procedures in place for managing inventory and preventing outages.
Whether you're a large clinical research center or a small study site, your team's mission is patient care. A lack of standardized workflows, best practices, and inventory management solutions expose your study site to costly outages that directly impact your ability to care for your patients. These inventory outages hurt enrollment, impact retention, and expose your site to deviation risk.
While it sounds daunting, inventory management isn’t too difficult. The key is to know what you have, what you need, and where it’s located.
Written by Rust Felix
Rust Felix is the Co-founder and CEO of Slope. He's passionate about helping study sites improve recruitment & retention through better inventory management.
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