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What’s Driving Network Consolidation

There are plenty of instances where institutional capital goes into a sector, only to fizzle out. Why are we confident that the site network trend is real, and not hype?

We’ve identified 4 main levers of revenue and profit growth for network consolidation. In order, from the “quick hit” to the heaviest lift:

Business Development

Instead of multiple sites managing their study pipeline, a network can create a central team. This team offers sponsors a single point of contact to stand up multiple locations. One CEO reported that his network is usually able to place new study opportunities at acquired sites that they were not previously aware of. Thus, the network can augment revenue at an acquired site simply by bringing them into more studies..

 

Budget negotiation

With scale and success come negotiation leverage. A network may be able to negotiate higher rates across the board, higher than what a single site may achieve by offering greater volume, accelerated timelines, and data consistency as a network. This pricing lever is extremely powerful, as nearly all the incremental revenue realized goes to the bottom line.

 

Recruiting

A single site may have a large database and a strong recruiting team. But acquisition of each additional site brings with it their added database of patients. And if 10 of them are housed in one roof, the network can move from 10 recruiting centers to a single centralized call center, operating with longer hours and incorporating more sophisticated VOIP technology. In addition, a network can invest in a patient marketing team that can bring digital marketing capabilities to augment the team’s efforts. When partnering with practices, the network can bring in AI tools to mine the EMR for likely prospects, then centralize outreach and qualification.  

 

Operations

Finally, the network can standardize operations, driving quality and consistency – and therefore efficiency – across multiple locations. The majority of networks adopt the full eClinical stack for sites – eSource, eConsent, eRegulatory – which embed quality into the design, thus reducing protocol deviations and coordinator re-work. For instance, Benchmark Research moved away from paper charts during the pandemic, incorporating CRIO’s eSource tool across all their sites. In a subsequent, large-volume study, they quantified a 38% reduction in protocol deviations. This improvement in quality translates directly into efficiency by reducing rework, while augmenting their value proposition to sponsors. With more time freed up for coordinators, they can reinvest that time to recruitment and retention, critical revenue drivers.

 

Taken together, the four drivers make a strong case for revenue and cost synergies. To be clear, networks are at very different levels of maturity across the four levers, and operational models are still evolving. Nonetheless, the first network to master all four synergies would become a potent player and equip themselves for long-term success.

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