Research Coordinators are Overworked, Burned Out, and in Short Supply: Technology Can Help

The job of a clinical research coordinator has always had its share of challenges. The work itself is often taxing and laborious, requiring the management of numerous complex studies. Coordinators are often responsible for patient recruitment and spend copious amounts of time manually scouring patient records, making phone calls, and sending out emails to reach people who may be eligible and willing to participate in a clinical trial. The coordinator must have the willingness, temperament, and patience to interact with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people.

Historically speaking, the clinical research coordinator position has typically had high turnover. It is often an entry point into the clinical research field or an alternative for those interested in pursuing a career in medicine and the healthcare field without the massive investments in a medical degree. But today, in the aftermath of the global pandemic and amid its lingering effects, turnover rates have skyrocketed to even higher levels. Sites can’t find enough coordinators to conduct studies, and those who remain on the job are overwhelmed and burning out.

COVID-19 sparked what has come to be known as the Great Resignation. Across multiple industries, organizations of all kinds have struggled to find and keep talent. Research sites find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in two primary ways.

First, larger clinical research organizations and pharmaceutical companies starved for labor are poaching research coordinators, luring them with higher-paying positions and more lucrative career opportunities. Research sites simply cannot compete. Second, the well-documented virtualization of the workforce prompted by COVID-19 has led to a strong desire among the workforce to work remotely. Given that clinical research must be done on-site, the job is therefore incompatible with someone seeking a work-from-home scenario.

Overlapping these challenges is the fact that the sheer volume of clinical trials continues to grow, along with the complexity of protocol criteria. Research coordinators are moving on to other positions or pursuing other lines of work. The sites are losing money by not being able to fill or take on more trials.

There is no fast and easy solution to the staffing problems research sites face. But leveraging technology, like BEKhealth’s clinical research platform, to automate workflows can help alleviate some of the laborious aspects of the job and enable sites to find, recruit, and enroll the right patients with greater speed and efficiency.

BEKhealth’s suite of solutions reduces the manual nature of patient searches and much of the labor, freeing time for more important work. By securely connecting with EMR databases, coordinators can conduct feasibility reviews in real-time. BEKhealth’s solutions and tools are intuitive enough so that, with minimal training, the platform can be used by research staff to quickly begin running searches with efficiency and speed. Sites are then able to take on more studies without overloading their already overburdened staff. BEKhealth cannot change the inherent challenges that accompany the coordinator position or eliminate the pervasive and daunting staffing challenges research sites face. But deploying the platform and modernizing onsite research operations can have an immediate positive effect, enabling existing coordinators to work more efficiently while also serving as a potential hook for recruiting new ones.

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