Study Issues

More seats at the table: innovative methods to improve the protocol writing process

Last Updated: Sep 12, 2014

Good listening is a necessary skill for writing a protocol that will accrue successfully. Here are some new ways to 'hear more'.

Linda Parreco's Image

Have you been involved in writing a new protocol? Is so, you may have found it to be an interesting/frustrating/challenging experience. How many people were at the table? Is there any relationship between the number of voices in the development process and the 'accruability' of the final study? We've all seen studies that contain great science, but simply won't fly in the real world. Maybe adding a few seats to the table and gaining additional perspectives from a broad, but qualified audience could improve the process? There are some interesting developments afoot that use new technologies to 'hear more' and improve the quality of the protocol. 

You've probably heard a bit about one method, crowdsourcing. I became aware of this concept a number of years ago when James Surowiecki, New York Times business columnist  and author of "The Wisdom of Crowds" was a key note speaker at a strategic planning retreat. Surowiecki's deceptively simple idea: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few. Crowdsourcing is 'the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call." (Howe and Robinson, 2005). Matthew Glasky, MD and his team at Mt. Sinai's Tisch Cancer Institute hypothesized that through crowdsourcing, the intellectual and creative capacity of a large group of physicians, researchers, patients, survivors, and advocates could improve the clinical trial design process. A secured web platform allowed participant input on important design elements on a planned trial that resulted in changes to the eligibiity criteria and study procedures. The process was found to be useful and feasible. 

A growing array of social media analytic tools allow you to 'put your ear to the ground' to hear the conversations across online discussion forums, blogs, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. This information may expand your understanding of the beliefs, attitudes and interests of your patient population as well as provide insights to planning a social-media based recruitment strategy. 

Interesting developments, wouldn't you agree? 


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