The Age of Data Collection

UPDATED: This post was updated for 2018 to reflect new information and more examples. Enjoy!

It’s the age of data. Collection of data is what drives world technology at such an alarming rate. Students of medical research and those involved in the field are learning and practicing in a unique era where we are experiencing a chasm between the technology we use every day and the processes used in research data collection. Technology around us has come so far because data collection is so convenient, so easy, and so inexpensive.

Yet, EDC systems have not adapted to that changing environment. So many devices today are able to capture information about their users. There are web-connected pocket monitors and sensors of all kinds we carry around to auto track our movements, our heart rates, and our sleep patterns, to name a few. We can also easily pull devices or smartphones from our pockets and manually enter data about how we feel and include images of anything notably observed. This can all be done at a cost of, well, nothing. It’s practically automated. So, what is going on in research? Where are these resourceful tools? Particularly in clinical research, where study subjects and those administering the study have a perfectly capable computer in their pocket as they fill out a piece of paper with chicken-scratch on a clipboard.

Anyone with exposure to this field has awareness of how broken, piecemealed, and/or inefficient data collection can be, and often is. To be clear, we are not referring to the research (scientific) methods used, but instead to the ways in which data is collected and managed. The priority is placed upon accuracy and reliability of data, and rightfully so. The problem comes along when the cost of developing a new tool for medicine is unnecessarily so high – “unnecessarily” because we have the tools necessary today to make research happen at a much lower cost.

Just a few decades ago, we gained the web, its endless capabilities, and convenient on-demand devices to deliver it right out of our pockets. During this generation, there was IBM in the workplace, and Apple Gen IIs in schools. Medical research happened almost purely on paper, and at best, transferred to a computer data grid, which was then copied to a floppy disk and mailed out to the study data manager.

Today, believe it or not, this still happens! Well, not the floppy disk part. However, paper data collection and non-web powered processes are still being used in most data collection. How did the incredible power of the web and mobile devices slip past the research industry?

It’s the age of data collection, and we can do so much better in medical research than we have been. We can proliferate game-changing results by setting down the clipboard and picking up the web. But when data is being accurately produced and managed, we won’t look back. Clinical Studio aims to provide a solution by bringing on-demand web and mobile app access to research studies everywhere. It’s the first to attempt this scope of change in research.