What does it mean to conduct effective remote clinical monitoring? It’s critical to be using an EDC in order to accomplish this, but what else is necessary? Keeping the primary goals of the monitor in mind, we will outline several techniques for streamlining this process.
What are the primary goals of the study monitor? First, and most critical, is to ensure the safety of all study participants – including clinical personnel. Second, is ensuring data quality and integrity.
Let’s discuss the EDC features that can help in each of these areas.
Monitors are relied upon to use their knowledge and expertise to recognize potential safety risks, and to report them when discovered. The EDC can’t replace monitors, but it can assist them greatly in their daily workflow.
Use of Notifications. The EDC can be configured to automatically notify monitors when certain events occur. Examples of this include the entry of adverse events, the reporting of out-of–range lab results and new subject enrollment. When automatic notifications are used, monitors are informed in real time and the need to continually review eCRFs for potential issues is eliminated – saving valuable time. Think about the potential risk factors for a study and consider how notifications can be configured to assist the monitor.
Use of Reports and Graphs. Some EDCs support flexible, configurable reporting tools that facilitate the aggregation of data for review. Graphs can be used to more intuitively spot outliers and aid in understanding trends. If such tools are not available, consider asking your EDC provider for custom summary reports that can be used to review study endpoints, exam results and adverse events in a comprehensive way.
Use of Study Dashboards. Dashboards that aggregate reports from multiple sources can provide a convenient starting point for a monitor’s daily workflow. Monitors can log in to the EDC and navigate to a central page to review notifications, study metrics and risk-aware reports.
By proactively thinking about the types of information monitors need, each study can be configured to provide tools such as these before the first subject is enrolled. With the VISION™ EDC system, mid-study updates can easily be made to support data monitoring needs that weren’t anticipated at study build time.
Ensuring Data Quality and Integrity
Sophisticated EDC systems support automated data cleaning in a variety of ways, which naturally improves data quality. Monitors and data managers can contribute their expertise at study build time to make sure that this automation is included as comprehensively as possible.
Use of “Completeness” Checks. Completeness checks answer the question “is all required data on the eCRF?”. This is especially important when some data can be entered conditionally (e.g., only if another data entry element has a certain value). A related question is “why wasn’t this form been filled out?”. It’s a good practice to implement a “Not Done” checkbox on forms such as Adverse Events and Necropsy that are (hopefully) not often used. This practice lets monitors know in a proactive way that the form is intentionally blank, which effectively reduces the amount of questions from the monitor.
Use of “Correctness” Checks. Correctness checks help answer the question “is the data correct and in the right format?”. While study protocols usually provide information about the resolution (e.g., number of decimal places) of data to be collected, they don’t always specify things such as the expected range for data points. Enlisting the support of data managers at study build time will help ensure these checks are in place and are as complete as possible.
Use of Visual Error Indicators. When visual error clues are present and easily viewable, monitors don’t have to spend time manually reviewing each form for errors. They can focus their efforts on strategic reviews instead. Such indicators also provide immediate feedback when data is entered, which prompts clinical personnel to correct entries in real time.
Use of Document Uploads. When it is necessary to transcribe data from paper forms, it’s good practice to provide an upload mechanism for those forms so the transcription can be reviewed more easily. This mechanism, along with Source Data Verification (SDV) functionality, is also useful in converting a paper study to EDC. VISION’s SDV functionality allows the monitor to sign off on each data entry field individually or at the form level.
Use of Integrated Query Functionality. Having the ability to enter queries directly into the EDC system, and to easily see whether queries have been resolved, is an enormous aid to monitors. It eliminates the need for them to revisit queries that have been resolved and move on to more important work.
Qualify the EDC Vendor’s Infrastructure. We’ve defined mechanisms for ensuring the completeness and correctness of data, but how secure is it? EDC vendors should be asked about their backup strategy. How often is data backed up? How much data could I potentially lose? How long does it take to restore data? How long is data retained? These are some good questions to ask your EDC provider before your study commences. Prelude recommends (and performs) hourly backups. Questions about barriers to system access are also important. Ask your vendor what their average up-time is. If clinical personnel can’t enter data in real time, data integrity could be impacted.
Monitor Workflow – Continuous Monitoring
Here are some recommendations for conducting remote clinical monitoring using VISION™.
- Identify a monitoring schedule and stick to it. For slow-enrolling studies, this might be once or twice a week. Larger, more active, studies may require full time monitoring efforts.
- Create focused reports that highlight potential risk areas and promote identification of outliers or undesired patterns. Configure the Dashboard to include these reports and share them with other clinical personnel to promote awareness.
- Consult the Dashboard to make sure notifications have been handled and to get an idea of emerging trends that require analysis.
- Review forms that have been submitted by clinical personnel and use the Query function to call attention to questionable data.
- Review recent lab results for out-of-range results and determine if those relate to Adverse Events.
- Review fields with changes to see if there are any patterns and clarify their use with clinical personnel.
It’s important to perform these activities continuously. Contemporaneous identification of issues is critical when safety is concerned and helps clinical personnel recall specifics they are likely to forget after time passes. Also, when monitoring is done continuously, study close-out activities can be completed much earlier since most of the work has already been done!
Monitors who understand the capabilities of their EDC provider and the automation that has been included in their study have an advantage. They can rely on the EDC system to handle the “grunt work” and concentrate instead on critical outcomes and analyses that can’t be automated.
There are so many ways to design electronic CRFs. Perhaps by looking at how NOT to design them, we can come up with some fresh ideas for how to make your next study a smashing success.
Fail to consider how well the forms will function on handheld devices.
The sun us setting on big screens and desktop workstations. Soon a new day will dawn, and the sun will shine solely on small screens. They provide mobility and greater access across the board. They are the key to conducting business in the information age.
Take, for example, form layout. Regardless of whether you are viewing it in landscape or portrait, a long list of fields is not conducive to the thought-processes of the human brain. Fields need to be grouped together in a way that makes sense to the person filling it out. And news flash: the person filling out the forms for your study is guaranteed to be relying on a human brain.
Put simply: don’t shortchange the design process of the study build in favor of a quick turnaround. You will thank yourself later when you are parsing through the raw data for usable statistics.
Require users to navigate extensively to do their jobs.
Do not bury important fields at the bottom of the form. Don’t force your sites to have to dig deep to get what you need. Cater the form configurations to quick and easy navigation.
Employ checkboxes instead of radios.
Simplify the investigators’ jobs before they even begin. Give them less options when possible. Dummy-proof your study to the point where the patients themselves could fill out their forms.
Don’t provide options for “Neither,” “N/A,” “Not Done,” or “Other.”
Bottlenecks happen when a field is lacking necessary options. The investigator will simply leave it blank if they do not see the option they need. Then the monitor goes in and queries the blank field. The investigator responds that they didn’t perform that particular test. The issue gets shunted up the line until it gets to Prelude and a mid-study update is requested to add the pertinent option to the field in question. This takes time, causes confusion, and costs extra support hours, depending on the complexity of the request. There will always be mid-study updates. It’s a normal part of the process, but some things can be prevented. Do your best to predict issues before they happen, and your study will run much more efficiently. Just don’t overthink it…
Assume that the data will be entered in a certain order.
After taking into account all of the above, we’ll leave you with this: You can’t predict everything. Put as much thought into your eCRF’s as you can, but first you have to learn the difference between what you can control and what you cannot. Providing a radio in place of a list of checkboxes is all well and god, but don’t assume they will fill out the first item on the form first. Don’t go overboard with field suppressions and calculations. Try to think the way a clinical would. That’s all you can do.
Have you ever worried about how a mid-study update to calculations or constraints might be implemented without affecting any previously entered data? Hopefully, this overview of batch edit checks will give you a good idea what options are available to you when considering mid-study updates. The batch edit check is a tool that your Prelude Project Manager (PM) in their administrator role utilizes in order to apply an updated edit check to all existing subjects so that you won’t have to waste time manually rendering each and every affected form.
Behind the scenes:
1. At the Project level, the administrator navigates to the Batch Edit Checks form.
2. The administrator has the option to run a past batch or start a new one.
3. If starting a new one, they set up the parameters. These include:
a. Choose either Subject or Site level forms.
b. Select whether or not to process new forms (i.e., blank forms). Note: Selecting this option will cause all constraints to fire for new forms, meaning they cannot be signed off on until the errors are resolved. Typically, this option is left blank so only In-Work forms are rendered.
c. Choose specific forms to be rendered or allow the system to process all forms. Note: The batch will run much faster if the PM knows which specific forms need to have their calculations and constraints processed.
4. Once a batch has been run, the administrator can:
a. Reset the form
b. Clear the form
c. Delete and renumber the forms
d. Lock the form
That’s it! Sit back and relax in the knowledge that VISION has got your data’s back (so to speak).
Streamline data-capture by using Vision’s built-in documents manager. You can keep all of your data and communications in one, easy-to-navigate place. Not only will assigned users have instant access to communications and updates, but you will be able to track who has viewed or edited what. No more unresponsive team members claiming, “No, I didn’t see that last update!” when really, they just forgot to respond to it (you know who you are).
Simply navigate to the applicable patient or site where you intend to upload a file or attach a note. Typically, the last or second-to-last form under each patient and site is labelled Notes/Comments/Errors or Comments/Errors. Under this file group will be a notes form. This can be used to append documents like medical histories or previous labs results to a specific patient or signed forms to a specific site. Team members can also add short comments as necessary throughout the study. Prelude offers this form group as part of every contract, but it can also be customized to suit your unique study’s needs.
There is also a form where users can upload transcribed CRF’s, making it easier than ever for sites to keep a thorough record of all essential documentation for their subjects. This basic form includes a place to record the date and time uploaded, the name of the electronic version of the form where the data was transcribed, as well as a link to that form within the system, the reason for transcription, and checkbox where the monitor can indicate that they reviewed the transcription. But don’t forget: this form can be customized to include any extra details your study requires.
Ask your Prelude Project Manager about even more ways to tailor your study’s forms to meet all your document management needs!
VISION’s user-friendly tools for customizing forms includes a handy tool known as the dynamic drop-down. This deceivingly simple field packs a lot of punch. While you can leave the drop-down menu as just that, a menu and nothing more, did you know that you can also use this menu to populate other fields or even populate it from other fields?
A great place to use this tool is on the Adverse Events and Concomitant Medications forms, so that the two can communicate with each other. If a con med gets administered to a subject due to an adverse event, both need to be documented. Using a dynamic drop-down menu on each form for the relevant subject saves a great deal of time and streamlines documentation. Once it is noted on the con med form that a medication was administered after an adverse event, then a menu appears with all previously entered adverse events for that subject. Simply select the correct event, and now the medication and adverse event are linked. Vice versa, If an adverse event required the administration of a medication in a subject, then you can select from a drop-down menu on the adverse events form all previously entered con meds.
This tool opens the door to many more opportunities for customization and, therefore, simplification of data-entry. Signature drop-down menus can either be populated from another field, i.e., from a list of names, or be role-based, meaning the names of every user who has been assigned a specified role will appear as an option. The menu for the reason a subject was withdrawn can be pre-populated conditionally, e.g., only if the subject was euthanized. This would save the investigator time as there would be no need to answer a slew of unnecessary questions to close out a patient. The transcribed CRF form features a drop-down menu that can be based on all forms or form groups, or it can include or exclude specific forms or form groups. Dynamic drop-downs can even communicate between subjects and sites, e.g., when updating con med and adverse event dictionaries.
Do you have a need for any other dynamic features? Let us know!
The importance of testing all aspects and features of a study before Go-Live cannot be over-emphasized. That being said, testing can be a very messy process. If not undertaken with a great deal of planning and documentation, the whole process of testing a study can be rendered not only ineffective but counterproductive. In comes User Acceptance Testing (UAT) to the rescue!
First, you might ask, what is UAT and how is it different from other forms of testing? Think of UAT as a dress rehearsal before a play. The actors all know their lines, the lighting director knows all their queues, and the sets have all been built and tested for safety. But you need to see it all together before you fill the seats with spectators. What if those perfectly built sets don’t line up with the spotlights or what if the bulky costumes get in the way of the actors’ performances? All the parts are there and accounted for, but the picture as a whole has yet to be validated.
The study-build process is similar. After each form has been tested separately, and all of the summaries and reports have been set up to your satisfaction, there is still the issue of unforeseen scenarios. You won’t be able to find or fix all the potential conflicts until you test the entire study as one. Set up a new site, enroll several patients, take each one through the entire screening/dosing/withdrawal/etc., process. Then do it again with another patient and another, until you have ironed out as many eventualities as possible. Even then, there may still be unforeseen problematic scenarios, but the purpose of UAT is to mitigate the number of issues that might come up during the Live study as thoroughly as possible. UAT is also a good way to provide you and your team with a finalized, succinct idea of what, exactly, you are signing off on before your sites begin entering patients. Once you complete your final run-through of the study, you can rest assured that you have done everything you can to make your study run smoothly.