The Real vs The Virtual
Contrasting the costs & effectiveness of investigator meetings and web-casts
At a recent meeting to plan their annual programme of clinical events, a client mentioned the idea of holding only web-based meetings. These are generally known as web-casts or web conferences, and offer the opportunity for a meeting to be broadcast in real-time, with delegates taking part using dial-up or broadband connections to the internet. With opportunities for significant savings in terms of cost and time, web-casts gained a strong fan base in international clinical research when they became widely available. However, there have recently been some stirrings of disaffection. Given that our client was giving serious thought to the idea, I thought it was time Meeting Room Equipment for an evaluation of the effectiveness of web-casts, and an appraisal of their place in clinical trials.
The complex nature of clinical trials means that those involved need to stay in near-constant communication with each other. Email and teleconferences are used where possible, but frequent physical meetings still take place. These cost money and time, and any study budget will include a significant allocation for such expenses. Take my client – their current pipeline drives an annual budget of £1m for study-related meetings, and they are a reasonably small company managing only a handful of Phase II and III studies.
Web-casting offers the opportunity to reach the individuals involved in a trial without incurring expenses for travel, accommodation etc. As such, the cost saving can be significant. For example, a conservative cost for an international investigators meeting is about £850 per head, 70% of which covers travel, accommodation and meals: money expended before even one investigator sits down to learn about the new trial.
Conversely, a five-hour audio web-cast with five speakers presenting to one hundred delegates costs approximately £250 per person. Speakers can present from several different places, totally eliminating the travel costs, and the audience can submit questions and receive answers in real-time. This cost saving of over 60% doesn’t include the savings in staff costs and third party time charges.
With a web-cast, your audience can view the meeting in the comfort of their own surroundings, either while it is taking place, or afterwards as a recorded session. Questions can be asked during the live broadcast, and a record of who has been viewing the session is available in the statistical analysis sent by the provider.
Furthermore, improvements in technology mean that connections are quicker and more reliable, and getting on-line is becoming much less expensive.
Purely on a cost and convenience basis then, it would be fair to conclude that web-casting wins hands down. But should we dispense with all physical gatherings? It makes sense financially and certainly saves time.
Clearly there are some occasions where face-to face contact is vital. But what about others that lend themselves more easily to web-casting? Clinical meetings, for example, are generally held to initiate the study, review its progress or share results. The inherent aim, to deliver information, can surely be achieved with a web-based meeting. In theory, of course, this is true, but in practice there are other factors to consider…