This is a great story that our company often hears from sites that are researching options and evaluating the return on investment. A research site is using an electronic medical record (EMR) system and trying to manage their day-to-day business operations within the EMR. For sites just entering the research world, this could seem like a viable and money-saving option. However, as they progress and acquire more studies, the limitations of an EMR are likely to cause more headache and hassle than it’s worth.
By definition, a Clinical Trial Management System (CTMS) is a software system used to manage large amounts of operational and business data involved with clinical trials. This includes components such as financials, visit management, and reporting. An EMR, on the other hand, is a computerized medical record that stores patient medical record data. By definition, these two systems sound entirely different, and realistically, they are quite different. Sure, there are some aspects of a clinical trial that you may be able to manage through your EMR, but when it comes to the day-to-day operations, understanding your financials, and maintaining compliance, there is no comparison.
Depending on the vendor, one thing an EMR does really well is allowing sites to manage and schedule patient visits or do a subject search. However, visit management stops there. In clinical trials, patient visits must occur within a specified timeframe according to the protocol. Unlike a good CTMS, EMRs do not have visit window functions. A CTMS permits staff to view exactly when visits need to occur to remain compliant with the protocol. They can also trigger notifications that a visit may be occurring out of window. Utilizing an EMR system, this information would have to be manually calculated and rechecked at each visit, costing valuable time.
Furthermore, once visits have occurred they need to be communicated to the financials team for invoicing to the sponsor. Because an EMR system is designed solely for patient data, there is no fluid communication of this sort when using an EMR for clinical trial operations management. A CTMS system will automatically send visit information to financials, ensuring accurate and timely invoicing. Additionally, the CTMS gives a view into the site’s financial health via reporting features.
Both an EMR system and a CTMS house patient databases, which make it easy and convenient to look up patients who may qualify for a study. Only a CTMS allows you to take this one step further. Rather than pulling a list of potential patients and then re-entering them into whatever system is used for the clinical trial, whether it is paper-based or electronic, a CTMS allows you to easily enroll them on the study with minimal time or effort. The entire process of recruiting and enrolling patients, managing their visits, and getting paid on time can all be done centrally and seamlessly through one system, ultimately saving your site time and money.
In the end, the answer to the question, “Can I use my EMR as a CTMS?” is ”you can try,” if you have limited needs for your trials. However, clinical trials continue to get more and more complicated. In order to fully integrate your operations while increasing compliance and efficiencies, you will want to consider other options. As technology continues to evolve, these two systems will undoubtedly be offered as a cohesive option. Until then, looking into a more robust system that can streamline your operations as much as possible may be the best decision. Once you begin using a CTMS you will certainly uncover many more ways in which it is different from your EMR when it comes to clinical trial conduct.
To learn more about how a CTMS can streamline workflows, download the free eBook, “How to Streamline Your Workflows with a CTMS.”