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Uncovering the risky communication methods of clinical trials professionals, while discovering a potential Web-based replacement.
Like any industry, the world of life sciences is in a constant battle for more efficient processes. Of course, with clinical trials there is the additional hassle of having to share extensive amounts of data among the multiple players involved in a trial.
That's why it is surprising to find that still some 50% of these industry professionals use email as their predominant method of sharing high-value information, according to an Intralink's poll (New York, NY).
Communication Methods in Clinical Trials
Even more surprising, the survey showed that following email as the top means for transferring information among clinical trials professionals was fax and overnight courier.
When weeks can potentially equal millions in a study, it seems that overnight mail and fax would certainly be the least likely candidates. But still, almost 15% are using fax and almost 14% are using overnight mail.
Though there is an obvious level of comfort in using these traditional methods of communication, "they come up short because they lack the security and audit capabilities you're looking for in this kind of process," noted Alison Shurell, vice president of life sciences product marketing for Intralinks.
The obvious risk in using such methods when sharing sensitive documents, Shurell told Applied Clinical Trials, is that "emails can get intercepted and sent to the wrong address, faxes are often left on the machine, and other people can see that. The other thing is that with email and fax it is very difficult to establish an audit trail—how do you know that who you sent it to got it, how do you know they picked it up?"
Fortunately, for those ready to adopt a new information exchange approach, there are other options of communication methods specifically designed for these types of processes. Web-based communication tools, such as Intralinks' Online Workspace, offer a service that requires "no installation of software on anyone's computer. As far as a site or the sponsor, all they need is Web access. They simply go to the Web site, use their unique ID and password to log on, and begin their work," Shurell explained.
While this type of service may rise above email, fax, and overnight mail on the issues of time, security, and money, it of course has the potential of facing the common resistance that typically emerges when implementing a new system over an already established one.
Quintiles' Site Start Up Director Lee Farrell explained that when implementing Intralinks' Web-based solution, getting clinical sites and their own employees to adopt the system was one of their biggest challenges.
And with 61% of respondents declaring the greatest challenge when beginning a new study is getting research sites on-board quickly, requesting them to adopt a new communication system may make this an even greater challenge.
Farrell also sited training and changes in the established process for collecting clinical site, regulatory, and investigator contracts as challenges that her company had faced.
When asked what would be most important if the decision was made to implement a technology solution, the poll showed that 40% of respondents were concerned with security, 23% with ease and flexibility of use, and 17% with speed of information sharing.
So, though getting clinical sites to climb on board with the additional requirement of adopting a Web-based technology may be an inevitable hurdle, overcoming the issues of time and security may be worth the leap.—Marissa Shapiro