Background Clinical trials are an important research method for improving medical knowledge and patient care. Multiple international and national guidelines stipulate the need for data quality and assurance. Many strategies and interventions are developed to reduce error in trials, including standard operating procedures, personnel training, data monitoring, and design of case report forms. However, guidelines are nonspecific in the nature and extent of necessary methods.
Objective This article gathers information about current data quality tools and procedures used within Australian clinical trial sites, with the aim to develop standard data quality monitoring procedures to ensure data integrity.
Methods Relevant information about data quality management methods and procedures, error levels, data monitoring, staff training, and development were collected. Staff members from 142 clinical trials listed on the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) clinical trials Web site were invited to complete a short self-reported semiquantitative anonymous online survey.
Results Twenty (14%) clinical trials completed the survey. Results from the survey indicate that procedures to ensure data quality varies among clinical trial sites. Centralized monitoring (65%) was the most common procedure to ensure high-quality data. Ten (50%) trials reported having a data management plan in place and two sites utilized an error acceptance level to minimize discrepancy, set at <5% and 5 to 10%, respectively. The quantity of data variables checked (10–100%), the frequency of visits (once-a-month to annually), and types of variables (100%, critical data or critical and noncritical data audits) for data monitoring varied among respondents. The average time spent on staff training per person was 11.58 hours over a 12-month period and the type of training was diverse.
Conclusion Clinical trial sites are implementing ad hoc methods pragmatically to ensure data quality. Findings highlight the necessity for further research into “standard practice” focusing on developing and implementing publicly available data quality monitoring procedures.