SMO, and Other Dirty Words: A Guide to Different Models of SMOs  

Posted by: DaVita Clinical Research

Like many other site organizations, DaVita Clinical Research has struggled with defining ourselves within an industry that holds firm to their acronyms.   CRO, or contract research organization, has been able to remain a constant within our business. No matter the service offering that a CRO may provide, they consistently claim to be a CRO.

However, site networks struggle when asked what they are. I have often found myself saying “We are an SMO, for lack of a better term” or “I guess you would call us an SMO, but let me explain.”

Different Models of SMOs

The reason for our hesitation when calling ourselves an SMO (site management organization) is due to the wide range of different SMO models. Some SMOs own and operate the sites that they manage.   They have quality programs and coordinator training and a full range of management services to ensure that their trials run without a hitch. However, other SMOs are the dreaded study brokers who work with sponsors to offer up sites, but have no responsibility beyond providing a name, address, and a capabilities sheet or feasibility questionnaire.

With these drastically different models out there, how can we differentiate between them? The short answer is that we don’t.  DaVita Clinical Research is an SMO, no matter how we try to frame it, so it’s better to make sure that we are able to give our SMO backstory.

Site Management Models at DaVita

Here at DaVita we have two models of site management. Our Alliance Network is full service. We employ and train our coordinators and manage the accounting for these sites.  We take on end stage renal disease (ESRD) and chronic kidney disease (CKD) trials and provide the necessary oversight outside of the principal investigator responsibilities.

The other model is our Affiliate Network. These are research sites that function independently from DaVita for day-to-day management, staff their own coordinators, and manage their own quality programs.   These sites coordinate with the DaVita dialysis centers in their independent research process. Our main job, as it is for our Alliance Network, is to ensure we are integrating these research protocols into the DaVita network of dialysis facilities that may have conflicting protocols.

To learn more about our Alliance and Affiliate Networks, review our brochure.  Our goal is to be your SMO of choice when it comes to nephrology research.   And I say that for lack of a better word.