Shorter timelines, budget savings, easier data management—these are proven benefits of electronic data capture (EDC) for all phases of clinical research. Yet by continuing to use paper-based data capture, as of 2015, more than half of all new clinical trials were missing out on those benefits. That’s unfortunate – but what’s even more unfortunate is that the cost- and time-savings that researchers are missing could be used to increase the number and quality of clinical trials. And just imagine if those trials could focus on developing effective treatments that are urgently needed for diseases affecting millions of people worldwide. Applying EDC savings in that way would mean replacing paper could have not only business benefits, but public health implications as well.
Underlining the Advantages of EDC
Many studies have shown the clear, measurable advantages of EDC over paper-based capture. Their findings make it tough to challenge the superiority of EDC, at least when it comes to timeline reduction – getting rid of paper has been found to:
- Decrease double data entry
- Result in fewer queries
- Accelerate database lock
- Reduce setup time from Design Standardization
- Shorten time required for data entry (using eSource) at the sites
Reasons why researchers stick with paper vary, and include perceived higher costs, unnecessary technical burdens, fear of job losses related to automation, and human nature’s resistance to change. All understandable—but well worth overcoming considering what’s at stake.
Freeing Up Resources to Meet an Urgent Need—One Example
These economic savings can ultimately have a huge humanitarian impact by providing much-needed support to urgent disease research. Take dementia, for example. By almost any measure, dementia is one of the costliest conditions to society, both in dollars and in human life. To help combat its growth, medical and scientific organizations have proposed guidelines that use biomarkers as part of the diagnosis and have made developing and validating Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers a top research priority1. But that research requires funding, and too many clinical trials are already competing for too few dollars.
Imagine how much more rapidly we could make progress in reducing the prevalence of dementia and the toll it takes on individuals, families and the economy if current clinical research were more cost- and time-efficient—which EDC makes possible. The resources saved could be allocated to fund clinical trials on treatments not just for dementia but for a wide range of serious disorders, including sleeping sickness and Chagas disease in the developing world, infectious and parasitic diseases, influenza, and for such “re-emerging” diseases as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
Applying Savings to a Humanitarian Cause
So while there’s a solid business case for the adoption of EDC technology in clinical trials, there’s an even more compelling public health case. When you look at the big picture, switching from paper-based data collection to EDC can be a win for researchers and their companies, sure; but if saved resources could be allocated to research into many other devastating diseases, the switch could also be a win for society as a whole.