Text messaging has become a simple, cost-effective way to reach study participants and is now frequently used as a method of communication within research studies. Texting, along with other vital technological components, must therefore be considered in grant and study budgets.

Add Text Messaging to Your Clinical Research Study Budget

A few common hiccups make the budgeting process substantially more difficult than is necessary, so we put together a short list of tips to help you approach budgeting text messaging appropriately:

Make sure the vendor is focused on your industry.

With a growing number of vendors for text messaging services, it is vital to find a vendor focused on your particular industry. This tip allows you to quickly weed out many vendors and focus on those who will fulfill your needs. You will be able to have confidence knowing that you are getting the solution you need instead of a solution that is close or “might work”, and for the right price.

Budget for modifications and configuration changes.

Modifications and configuration changes are a possibility for your study, since every research project is different and has specific design requirements. Including money for modifications in your budget means that you will be able to make any necessary changes for your study.

It is important to note here that not all text messaging vendors will agree to make custom changes to their platform, so before you set aside this budget, make sure that you will be able to use the money you set aside with the vendor that you choose!

Avoid “triple the matrix price” ballparking.

One method of ballpark budgeting is to go to multiple text message marketing websites, look at the average monthly cost based on an assumed number of sent text messages, and triple this number to create a budget. This method is normally performed due to busyness and impending deadlines, but it will cause trouble. Quick ballparking this way puts you in a position later to have to stick an approved budget based on many assumptions. Often, teams find that the sites used for ballparking cannot offer what is needed, yet there is now not enough money to get the right solution and a higher budget must be approved.

Instead of performing quick, inaccurate ballpark estimations, spend time to get the right pricing for the text messaging services you really need.

Provide as much study information as possible.

Help your vendor help you. By providing as much study information as possible up front, you are avoiding any surprises that might cost you more in the future. If you require a Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA) to speak freely about your study, your vendor should be able to quickly execute one and set up a call.

Ask for a privacy and data security statement.

While not inherently related to cost, asking for a privacy and data security statement is vital. If the vendor does not have a statement prepared and ready to send, they are going to be hard to sell through to your IRB or Ethics Board.

Approach pricing from a “solution” mindset.

Text messages may be inexpensive, but the development and management of software catered to your needs is not. There is a cost associated with the level of expertise your study will require in order for your questions and concerns to receive quick replies.

While questions such as, “How much will it cost to send X text messages to 300 study participants over 6 months?” seem like appropriate questions for the initial budget conversation, more questions must really be asked to determine the complexity of the study program. Often, program complexity far exceeds the simple sending of a text message and could lead to increased costs in the future if not determined when an initial budget is made.

Get a full list of features.

While searching, you probably used keywords to find specific vendors with features that you need. This is a good start, but it is best to ask the vendors you discovered for a full list of capabilities and features.

Sometimes, by viewing this full list of capabilities, you can get new ideas of how to achieve your study goals or present better solutions to the vendor. It is easy for both parties to get fixated on a few focused areas of the project and not consider new ideas, resulting in “I didn’t know you did that”, “Well, you didn’t ask!” conversations down the road.

The best and most successful uses of text messaging within studies happen when clients are informed about the text messaging channel, but more specifically about all that the vendor is able to provide. You will feel more familiar with the vendor and your study will go more smoothly knowing all the capabilities of your vendor.

Following these tips will allow your text messaging budget to be developed more easily and to be more accurate so that you can run your study in confidence. Happy budgeting!

photo credit: reynermedia via Flickr cc

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