Since its inception, Excel has been the go-to tool for professionals in almost every industry, including clinical research. While Excel is a good application that offers users a number of helpful and useful tools, many organizations stretch the use of Excel far beyond its intended purposes. Use of Excel spreadsheets in clinical research is rampant; however, users might not know that they are missing out on valuable tools by using an application stretched far beyond it capabilities. In addition to the need for continual maintenance of templates within an Excel document, there are a host of other reasons why clinical research organizations are being held back by MS Excel.
– One of the biggest shortcomings of using MS Excel to manage clinical research is its lack of “project management” capabilities. While Excel was designed the “manage” data it was not designed to manage an entire clinical trial. MS Excel lacks the necessary tools for project management. For example, setting and tracking study milestones, recording the completion of activities and automatically triggering activities to begin as others are completed. Clinical trial management systems (CTMS) will track activities and ensure that all studies are on time and on track.
Collaboration & Communication
Research has become a highly collaborative industry and it is critical that research organizations have the tools to ensure the necessary communication is taking place. Use of MS Excel documents to track clinical research can be a nightmare. Communication is done via email and phone, dozens of document versions are floating around and there is no security. CTMS applications allow for unparalleled collaboration and communication. All trial information is centralized in one location, all information is updated in real-time and the information is stored in a secure environment. Collaboration is as easy as logging into the application.
Research organizations working with numerous partners often have a hard time selecting the right partners to work with, and MS Excel is no help. When selecting research partners, be it sites, monitors, labs or vendors, it is important to take a number of factors into account. Including past performance, skills and competencies, equipment and much more. Using Excel to track research makes it very hard to keep this critical information up-to-date. Applications like CTMS actually will track this information and make partner selection a breeze.
The use of MS Excel to manage clinical research, by nature, forces all research activities to be decentralized. An organization might use a database to manage patients, Excel to track finances and visit completions, a scheduling application to track appointments and a 3rd party to manage recruitment. Breaking all of these research activities into different applications is not only inefficient, but leaves the door open for mistakes and staff confusion. CTMS applications centralize all clinical research activity from recruitment to execution to completion, in one place.
Reporting & Metrics
The ability to track and measure clinical trials is key to the success of both the trial and the research organization. MS Excel offers very little in the area of metrics and reporting. Any reports that do exist have to be made manually and updated regularly, and one mistake can throw off the metrics for an entire study. In addition to the manual component, MS Excel is limited by the complexity of metrics that can be tracked. CTMS software applications are able to track and report on hundreds of key metrics, in real-time, helping research organizations make informed and timely decisions.