Site payments remain a challenge for sponsors – at Bioclinica, we have data to support this from our own Site & Patient Payments technology but also from surveys that we've conducted, most recently with FierceBiotech. A survey about site payments was distributed by FierceBiotech to sponsors in April 2018, and 149 sponsors responded. In this blog post, I'll provide some insight, based on the survey responses and my own experience, into how CROs can help alleviate the payment-related pain points for their customers.
Role of CROs in Payment Management
In the survey, approximately 77% of the respondents stated that they either leave it up to their CRO or work together with their CRO to determine what technology to use. To stand out from other CROs, it's important to be able to offer a technology that meets the sponsor's (and investigators') payment needs. As one former VP of Strategic Technology for a large CRO stated: "If investigators are unhappy, sponsors may switch solutions, since they can't afford to lose them. I've seen CROs lose contracts over this." What used to be considered back office administrative tasks is now viewed as a key differentiator.
Desired Characteristics of a Payment System
The most common responses when sponsors were asked what they want from their site payment method were transparency of the payment process and control over their cash flow. Other characteristics that they reportedly use to determine if they were satisfied with their current system were payment accuracy, payment timeliness and reporting capabilities.
Transparency remains a challenge, with 18% of sponsor respondents stating that the site payment data they receive from their CRO is not very to not at all transparent, while 62% stated that it is only somewhat transparent. Ideally, sponsors would have visibility into the complete financial lifecycle (accruals, remits, audits). With the added compliance pressure (e.g., Sunshine Act, Financial Reporting, etc), the importance of reporting capabilities increases.
Sponsors are also wanting stronger cash management via just-in-time funding. To achieve this, CROs need improved forecasting abilities as well as accuracy to cover pass-through expenses.
For site satisfaction, accurate, timely payments based on completed tasks are desired – to improve their own cash management. With increasing competition for quality sites, sponsors want to make sure they are viewed as a sponsor of choice – one that makes the right payments at the right time.
If you're still relying on manual, spreadsheet-based or homegrown systems, how do you achieve all of this? This is where purpose-built payment technology plays a critical role.
Technology-Enabled Payment Systems
It might be time to start considering what these technology platforms can do for you. Purpose-built site payment technology can often integrate data from other systems (e.g., EDC, ERP, IVR, CTMS) for direct transfer of completed tasks that can automatically trigger site payment based on the contract terms (completion of subject procedures and visits). Integrating change management for contract and protocol amendments is much easier, and the systems are often scalable. Additional benefits for many (but not necessarily all) systems include:
- Reduced manual entry
- Improved payment accuracy
- Fewer payment errors
- Less time for end-of-trial reconciliation
- Just-in-time funding
- Automated accruals
- Invoice management
- Audit/financial reporting
- Real-time data about payment status
- Forecasting and reforecasting
- SOX compliance
- Role-based access to reports and visibility into payments
However, not all site payment technologies are the same. It's worth taking some time to compare systems from different vendors to determine which one meets your needs as well as those of your sponsor clients.
Bioclinica offers the only suite of products designed to fully automate the entire financial lifecycle of global clinical trials, including integration with eclinical and ERP technologies, payments, accounting, and reporting functionality. To learn more about our Site Payments technology, feel free to reach out to me at Meghan.Harrington@bioclinica.com.