Q&A with Bonnie Segal from Segal Trials
The following Q&A was hosted by Christian Burns [hyperlink to his bio on our website], President at ClinEdge, and Bonnie Segal [hyperlink to her bio on her website], Co-Founder and President at Segal Trials.
Tell me about how your site is doing — are you fully open? Is everyone in the office?
Our site has a hybrid strategy. Before we went to shelter in place, we started to prepare by examining our studies across all our sites and our staff situation. Every decision we made was very strategic. We moved most of our staff to our inpatient site, which is a 29-bed unit, to manage the day by day. We are in fact busier there now than we were before the shelter-in-place mandate. Nevertheless, 40% of our studies went on hold and 33% of those are not restarting in June, although by then most of our staff will be back. We did not close our other sites, but we did adjust and reduce hours. Unfortunately, we had to furlough 9% of our staff and reduced hours for 19 employees. However, we are planning on increasing our staff again as studies reopen.
“ Specifically talking about the inpatient unit you just mentioned, has the pandemic caused any effects on studies you are running, or have you mostly seen synergies with studies for which you were already enrolling? ”
Most studies we had to pause were outpatient. We had only one inpatient study go on hold. And, since we had to stop any community outreach recruitment because of the pandemic, we shifted all our energy into more organic recruitment, specifically mining our database via email and text messages. For lead generation, we used Facebook and digital referrals. We communicated daily with our teams, pre-screeners, and physicians, ensuring we were all aware of our enrollment goals. All this contributed to exceeding them.
“ How did you adjust your recruitment strategy, content, and messaging during that time? ”
Our only adjustment early on was offering virtual pre-screening, thinking and anticipating that it might be a need. We advertised it, although very few people wanted to do it — most people wanted to get on the phone. The messaging itself did not change, except for how we started to center our communications around, for instance, Mental Health Month and Clinical Trials Day. This has made our community feel supported. We have also provided lots of resources and partnered with associations to promote mental health and safety precautions during the pandemic. Our audience have not necessarily asked us questions, but we felt it was important, and knowing our health and safety protocols has made them feel more comfortable.
“ So, patients preferred remote assessments over virtual ones? ”
We offered virtual pre-screening and even home visits, which we have been planning to add to our capabilities. However, we have not seen much interest during the pandemic. Our coordinators have been ready to go to homes, equipped with the required PPE and ensuring we adhere to all CDC safety precautions. We are still hitting the same revenue goals and the need has not been there; people continue to feel comfortable coming to the site. Nevertheless, looking at the future, this is the right time to ensure we have a model with a hybrid approach for the outpatient studies. After all, we do not know what the future holds in store.”
“ From an inpatient perspective, have you noticed any concerns from new patients and caregivers about being in an inpatient or assisted-living facility during this pandemic? ”