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Why Are We Still Doing It This Way?

Seven Steps to Re-evaluate Academic Medical Center Research Participant Payment Processes

Having previously spent over 27 years in academic research, I consider myself a “card-carrying” academic. Throughout my career, I observed the continuous challenge facing leadership to adopt the best technologies for managing the various processes related to sponsored research. Key basic challenges are learning what technologies are available (perhaps leveraging knowledge of systems by networking with your colleagues); evaluating each system’s functionality; and  quantifying the potential impact and value, or, return on investment (ROI).

Solving Unmet Needs for AMCs: Simplifying and Streamlining Patient Payments

As Director of Research Operations for my Department of Medicine, I ultimately fell into the challenge of finding the best technology to replace the method our AMC was using to reimburse participants for their participation in clinical trials. I reached a tipping point one day after continuously being confronted by frustrated staff who asked, “why are we still doing it this way?”

The “it” related to the method our institution was using to reimburse and track clinical trial participant travel, study visit milestone payments and 1099 data for IRS reporting. “This way” referred to the non-standardized payment methods (gift cards, checks, petty cash), inefficient, paper-based workflows and morale-draining manual accounting.

The variability was so bad (and I continue to see this nationally across AMCs) we didn’t even have standardized payment methods within our own department! No wonder the staff were complaining.

But everything finally changed when I was able to get our research leadership to evaluate the inefficiency of our processes and ask each other, “why are we still doing it this way?”

I was quickly assigned to be the institutional leader charged with finding a more efficient solution. Using my academic network, I was fortunate to find a technology solution seven years ago from a colleague who raved about they were using, the ClinCard from Greenphire.

My AMC successfully implemented the ClinCard after we completed the product evaluation. The solution has been a win-win-win: a win for research participants, staff, and sponsors.

New career, new challenges, new opportunities

Today I’ve transitioned to the software side, working at Greenphire. I share my experiences with some of the top academic researchers across the country to help them overcome significant (yet fixable) efficiency issues at their institutions. By sharing best practices, I hope to help others get back to focusing on research instead of administration.

Seven Key Issues to Consider

Are you looking for a solution to make clinical trial participant payment and accounting more efficient? My role is to help you think through the process and share insights from my experience and gleaned from our top clients.

Here are the top items that you need to think through prior to getting started with a new system:

  1. Functionality:  What is the process and functionality you have now? What aspects are inefficient?
  2. Market Solutions:  What is available in the market and what scope of functionality is provided?
  3. Stakeholders:  What small group of stakeholders do you need to engage who are thoughtful, collegial, constructive, and who will offer their time to assess the issue and seek a solution?
  4. Value:  What value and ROI could a new method provide: staff efficiency and satisfaction; participant satisfaction; and improved perception by sponsors of the sophistication of your institution?
  5. Risk:  What areas is the institution currently at risk for by using the current methods?
  6. Cost/Benefit:  How could reengineered processes and efficiencies offset the cost of any new solution?
  7. Governance:  Who will manage the process of evaluating and implementing a solution?


Next Steps: Meet In-Person at NCURA or Online

One of the favorite parts about my job is connecting with other academic professionals to share my story and listen to theirs; often this includes networking at national research conferences.

Coming up next, I‘m excited to be attending the NCURA conference again this August in D.C. I hope to engage with many of my colleagues and discuss approaches for making effective organizational improvements in your research operations, including discussing the advantages provided by ClinCard.

If you aren’t attending NCURA, but are interested in learning more about optimizing your processes, please email or call 215-259-3345.

Joe Gough
Written by Joe Gough

Joe Gough is a Solutions Specialist for Academic Medical Centers and Universities . Working with the Greenphire Site team, my goal is to communicate the value of clinical trial patient payment automation to academic medical centers, universities and select government-related research networks.