Nov. 13, 2007
| With clinical trial technology now an integral part of many global studies, the full-service Help Desk is emerging as a critical tool for successful implementation. Providers are bolstering their Help Desk operations to support the many administrative and technical questions that arise as end-users at the site level, study monitors, and strategic partners embrace technologies such as electronic data capture (EDC), clinical trial management (CTMS), and clinical data management systems (CDMS).
Rich Deyermond, VP of global customer care for Phase Forward, says, “The Help Desk is absolutely critical to what we do. It’s the main touch point with the end-user on a day-to-day basis. They have to have a place to go with questions.”
Just a few years ago, when clinical trial technology was less prevalent, Help Desks were far less sophisticated. Dan Piekarz, senior director of support services for Medidata, recalls: “Before 2004, we could handle the volume of calls with a much smaller Help Desk, and project managers were typically brought in early in the process.” But as Medidata expanded from being a U.S. company to a global enterprise in some 130 countries, “we built a full-service Help Desk that has grown to a staff of 80 operating 24/7 worldwide.”
Medidata has three Help Desks — United States; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Tokyo — and offers six core languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Japanese. In all, 20 languages are available among the staff, all of whom are bi- or tri-lingual. Piekarz says that the dispersal of Help Desk locations provides a multitude of languages and better serves the callers. “In Japan, for example, it’s very important to address doctors with the proper level of respect. This is reflected in the nuances of the language that would only be known to someone living in Japan or someone who is very familiar with the culture and language,” he explains.
Medidata uses a tiered support structure. Tier I handles most calls from investigative sites, and questions about administrative and technical use of Medidata Rave, the company’s data collection and management solution, as well as basic troubleshooting. Tier II staff members cover applications and how they are configured, so they provide more intense technical support. Tier III may address questions related to integrating the flow of data between Medidata Rave and third-party applications or how to migrate a patient to a new version of the case report form (CRF).
Alternative Help Tools
Phase Forward also staffs its Help Desk 24/7, and operates mostly in the United Kingdom with a staff of 60. Service is offered in six core languages, with Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, and Cantonese also available.
The Help Desk, or Global Support Center, is the initial triage point. Deyermond says typical Tier I questions include, “‘I’m having trouble with my log in’, ‘How do I reset my password?’ or ‘I’m trying to pull a report and I’m not sure which screen or icon to use.’” Some customers, particularly if they are more experienced, may call directly into the Tier II Corporate Applications Group, and pose questions for the applications or production operations support teams. These could be questions about unexpected pieces of clinical data, and may require an in-depth analysis of the application itself.
According to Deyermond, a full-service Help Desk needs more than well-trained multi-lingual staff — it also needs a growing cadre of online resources. “The industry is moving toward self-service. We’ve made an investment in automated tools, so over time, we may not need as many people to handle the calls, but you don’t want to lose that frontline contact. You need the right mix of human contact and self-service,” he explains.
Advanced Clinical Software (ACS), a CTMS provider, has also invested heavily in online resources to help users answer questions and resolve issues. Kris Olson, marketing manager, explains that when customers purchase StudyManager, the company’s CTMS product, they select an implementation package that includes various levels of start-up support intended to limit support needs from the beginning. In addition, there is a searchable online resource known as Knowledgebase, and a self-service center accessed at www.studymanageruser.com, which focuses on peer-to-peer interaction.
“Users can respond to questions that other users may have, they can look at best practices and offer input to us on ways we can improve our customer support and service,” says Olson. In addition, ACS has created a number of short instructional videos about StudyManager that users can access online.
ACS expects the Knowledgebase resource to grow along with peer-to-peer interaction and the number of videos. Olson aims to increase the number of questions resolved online from 60-70% to 80% in the near future.
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