We comment a lot, on this blog, on the trends influencing the direction of clinical research and the eClinical technology industry. One trend that has become an especially prominent topic of water cooler conversations today is recent acquisitions in the eClinical space. There have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years of technology giants hoping to edge their way into the life science field by acquiring an eClinical software provider.
Opinions and reactions abound when it comes to these things. Many will point out the positive effects of such acquisitions: for the acquired company, stock boosts for employees, more stability, and a growth infusion are just some of the benefits people cite. And they’re right to do so. But when the ink dries and the hands are shaken, the customers of those companies – the people on the ground who rely on fast and easy software in their pursuit of life-saving medical breakthroughs – may find themselves in a strange and unfamiliar landscape. All of this raises the important question of how data managers and site staff should react when their provider announces an acquisition.
eClinical acquisitions from the user perspective
Customers of acquired eClinical providers can take comfort in the validation and stability that such acquisitions bring. But there are certain aspects of recent acquisitions in the eClinical software industry that have some people scratching their heads.
1. The parent company is an outsider
In recent cases, the company acquiring an eClinical provider is not, itself, in the eClinical space. This means only a fraction of the parent company’s product development will go toward improving the eClinical platform that users have come to depend upon, leading to a slower and less robust product roadmap, with fewer resources dedicated to ensuring speed and ease of use for eClinical users.
2. Turnover is inevitable
An unavoidable byproduct of corporate acquisitions is significant employee turnover. Many of the people who helped build the acquired company and who understand its strengths, weaknesses, and the unique needs of its customers move on, leaving those customers to work with a whole new cast of characters unfamiliar with the nuances of each project.
3. Doing business becomes a chore
The bigger a company gets, the harder it can be to connect with support staff who understand and care. Moreover, with acquisitions, customers can find themselves suddenly facing new and more complex pricing structures from the parent company looking to recoup their investment. The bottom line: clinical researchers who are trying to focus on treating disease and saving lives are suddenly mired in financial and logistical headaches.
At the end of the day, clinical researchers need an eClinical solution that delivers the ease of use and functionality to get their studies up and running quickly and create a smooth path to database lock. Along the way, they need to know that they won’t get bogged down by unnecessary complexity, out-of-reach support resources, or opaque cost structures. Adding uncertainty and a diminished customer focus only makes the situation worse. After all, lives are at stake – there’s little time to waste on logistics. While the eClinical acquisitions making headlines in recent years do offer some reason for excitement, the customers of acquired companies should consider what the impact could be on their ability to answer the call of public health.