Collecting accurate data is a priority for businesses such as research firms and healthcare organizations that deal with large volumes of data. Data needs to be captured, documented, and compiled for analysis, but trying to complete this process manually is a tough job. Manual paper-based methods are not only time-consuming but also increase the chances of human errors.
Electronic data capture (EDC) software digitalizes the data capture process for field teams, surveyors, researchers, and study coordinators, so they can do away with manual ways of collecting data. It validates the captured data and makes it readily available for analysis and reporting.
A wide range of EDC software options is available on the market, and choosing the one that best meets your needs and budget is important. This guide will help you understand the different factors you must consider when shortlisting an EDC solution.
Here's what we'll cover:
What is EDC software?
EDC software is an electronic data capture solution that lets surveyors, clinical researchers, and other field teams collect data via electronic forms. It streamlines data management and helps replace traditional paper-based forms. Data captured by the tool is stored at a centralized location and can be fed into other software applications for analysis or reporting.
EDC software can work with mobile devices, devices that have a built-in camera for scanning paper forms, or form builder tools. It’s most commonly used in pharmaceutical and clinical research companies to capture large volumes of patient and clinical trial data.
Capturing data through a mobile device in Fulcrum (Source)
Common features of EDC software
Different vendors offer different features as part of their EDC system. Selecting software with the right features is easier when you know what the most common features are and what they do. Here’s a look at some of the common features of EDC tools.
||Use desktops, mobile devices, tablets, etc., to enter data into specific fields on electronic forms.
||Use built-in customizable templates to create electronic data capture forms. You can also add various data fields to the forms.
||Set up automated data validation checks to ensure captured data is accurate and can be processed further for analysis.
|Data export and reporting
||Export captured data in file formats such as Excel and CSV. Use the reporting function to extract business insights from the collected data.
|Third-party integration support
||Integrate the tool with other software solutions such as data analysis systems to ensure smooth exchange of data for further analysis or reporting.
What type of buyer are you?
Before you start evaluating EDC software options, you'll want to know which buyer category you belong to. Most buyers belong to one of the below categories.
Small and midsize businesses (up to 500 employees): These buyers typically include small and midsize companies with expertise in a specific field. Their data collection teams have fewer members who focus on a single area of research. These buyers should adopt an EDC platform that aligns with their field of specialization. Accurate data capture, data validation, and creation of electronic forms are some features they should look for.
Large enterprises (over 500 employees): These buyers include large companies that have multiple projects on their annual agendas. Thus, they have multiple data collection teams that need to collect huge volumes of data. These buyers should opt for an EDC tool that not only captures and validates data accurately but also supports integration with third-party analysis tools to derive insights from collected data.
Benefits of EDC software
While some benefits of EDC solutions may be clear from our discussion above, we've listed the most notable ones in this section.
Better data quality: EDC software validates data for accuracy based on user-defined rules. It immediately flags manual errors or illegible data to ensure correct details are collected. It also automatically calculates field values in electronic forms, thus increasing accuracy and reducing manual work for the data collection team.
Prevention of data loss: EDC software helps store data in a digital format instead of paper-based forms that can get misplaced, lost, or damaged. Also, collected data is kept at a centralized location and backed up regularly. In case of accidental data loss, backed-up data is readily available for use.
Key considerations when buying EDC software
Listed below are some points to consider when purchasing an EDC platform.
Mobile app availability: Check if the EDC software you’re planning to purchase offers mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, such as smartphones and tablets. A mobile app will let you input data into the system even if you’re offline or have limited access to the internet. Data collected offline will sync automatically once the internet connectivity is restored.
Customer support: Inquire about the type of support provided by your shortlisted vendors: 24/7, 24/5, or only during business hours. Also, verify if they offer your preferred support channels, such as email, phone, or live chat. Support services will help fix any software issues that can lead to compromise or loss of confidential data.
Market trends to understand
Here’s a recent trend in the EDC software market that you should be aware of:
Healthcare companies are integrating wearable devices with EDC software: A growing number of healthcare and clinical research companies are integrating patients' wearable devices, such as glucometers and oxygen sensors, with electronic data capture software to automatically collect patient data. Integration is helping these companies capture data on time as well as reduce the number and length of patient visits to clinical sites.
Note: The application selected in this article is an example to show a feature in context and isn’t intended as an endorsement or a recommendation. It has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.