After 21 years building her career with LMC Manna Research, Karri Venn has been taking in the extra time with her family during the pandemic. At the same time, as President, Research she’s leading her team in Canada to face COVID-19 head on as it moves forward into studies of mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The team, continually refined to be responsive to industry changes, is ready for the challenge.
US-based research professionals often think of Canada as an extension of the region, but for researchers in Canada that has not been the case. “We’re the Rest of World,” Ms. Venn states bluntly. “The only way we could compete with the US early on was to be better, bigger, faster.” To meet those requirements, the company, then just called LMC, streamlined every part of operations they could.
To learn more about research operations, Ms. Venn went to the Site Solutions Summit from its earliest days. “There is no doubt that being part of SCRS helped build our capability,” Ms. Venn explained. “I was at the early conferences back when they were in Clearwater and I walked away with pages of notes and action items.” She also noted that she took with her the example of Christine Pierre, founder of SCRS and one of the first site network leaders in the industry, as a dynamic female leader.
At the time, community medical centers in Canada didn’t necessarily get the same financial support as major medical centers. Nor were they seen as serious contributors to research. LMC changed all of that. First, by doing research they were able to earn money to beef up their medical services. Diabetes educators and other support staff were hired. Eventually LMC had 13 diabetes centers of excellence.
Second, even though they were originally rejected from research networks that favored academic-based researchers, they’ve been invited in as they’ve built their own key opinion leaders and publication resume.
An acquisition by private equity and a subsequent merger with Manna Research allowed them to increase their diversification and further grow their operations and efficiencies. The entire system is now on one EMR, and the network is more cohesive than ever. They are also founding members of the international research network hyperCORE International, which includes sites in five countries including the US. That has created more insight into the difference in opportunities between the US and Canada and provided a collection of sites to share best practices and to further solidify their position and increase study opportunities.
LMC Manna Research was one of the first medical centers to deal with COVID-19, but not by choice. An employee was one of the first patients diagnosed in Canada, and the team an LMC Manna Research found themselves intimately aware of operational impact and the need to change their business model for continuity of care.
The employee has now recovered, participated in COVID-19 research, and is back at work. While he was dealing with his illness and advocating for clinical research participation, the site was turning their challenge into an advantage. Within a week, they had switched to a direct-to-patient model in which study supplies go to the patient’s home. They had dialed in remote and virtual visits before the rest of the country was even starting to shut down.
The philosophy and culture at LMC Manna Research has always been about rising to the occasion and being on the cutting edge. Ms. Venn comments, “The ability to embrace change has afforded our group a chance to lead and impact necessary change that is needed from a site perspective.” COVID-19 brought challenges, but it also brought new opportunities: “We were always looking for the right moment to go 100% paperless.” They are now working towards full eREG and eSOURCE adoption so that they can provide their industry partners the ability to remotely monitor.
As patients and researchers, they were determined to make a contribution in the fight against COVID-19. Framing the issue in terms of what they could do for patients no matter where those patients were, one of their employees established a program called “Connected Hearts” that donates tablets to ICUs so patients could more easily communicate with their loved ones. Then they geared up to get into the fight themselves.
Writing policies for the use of PPE and obtaining hard-to-source supplies, they were ready for a study of patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 that requires visiting the patients in their homes. “Our staff were ready to volunteer to work on these studies as soon as we started to hear about them,” Ms. Venn reports. “COVID-19 has taken so much freedom and choice from us. This is how we take it back.”
Patients have joined with them, choosing on their own to do interviews with local media about research opportunities. With a solid foundation of eager staff, cutting-edge systems, relationships in research and the support of patients, LMC Manna Research is ready to thrive as they help resolve the uncertainties thrust upon the world of 2020.
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