early contact service

Utilising EDGE to Record, Monitor and Report on Studies Supported through the NIHR CRN West Midlands Early Contact Service


Data has never enthralled me but I understand the importance of capturing and recording accurate data in a timely manner to create a clear picture of how a service is performing and to install the confidence to then disseminate report findings to a wide audience. Plus my line manager is a data enthusiast so data accuracy is of paramount importance to ensure meaningful analysis and this is regularly communicated to the team.

My role is to manage the Early Contact service for the Clinical Research Network West Midlands. The Early Contact service supports Chief Investigators and their research team as early as the research idea stage and up until study set-up at key stages across the research delivery pathway. The team is made up of 12 Early Contact Leads who each have a caseload of up to 30 clinical trials that they are providing support for at any one time. Therefore, it is important to be able to maintain a record of each study, monitor progress at key stages, and provide accurate reporting on the service.

Prior to the use of EDGE, the CRN West Midlands Early Contact team were using an ever growing Excel spreadsheet to record all studies supported through the Early Contact service. This was becoming cumbersome with multi-user editing, data errors and speed issues to name a few of the challenges that made it difficult as a manager to maintain oversight of the service and have confidence in the accuracy of data. Not being a fan of spreadsheets or a data driven enthusiast, data management was becoming a dull routine that I was keen to change!

Once EDGE was introduced to the Network, it seemed the perfect solution to adopt and the Early Contact team have used the functionality of EDGE to make it specific to the team’s requirements for recording, monitoring and reporting on all Early Contact studies. As a team we were glad to see the back of the monster spreadsheet and embrace a new concept more suitable to our needs.

The use of EDGE has been a learning curve as it was new to the team initially and therefore quite challenging to learn how to use a new system as well as ensure the functionality had been explored and utilised to our advantage. A five step approach was adopted for rolling out the use of EDGE in the Early Contact service:

  1. Identify EDGE attributes specific to the  requirements of the Early Contact service

  2. Develop an EDGE Early Contact User Guide (and adapt with every changing requirement!)

  3. Train Early Contact Leads in use of EDGE

  4. Update EDGE attributes and Guide as necessary and communicate changes

  5. Monitor success of use of EDGE for Early Contact service (this was an easy one!)

As a result of utilising EDGE for the Early Contact service (compared to the previous clunky spreadsheet system), more accurate data has been achieved more easily and a considerable amount of time has been saved too (always a bonus!). The Early Contact team have also experienced the following benefits:

  • Production of more accurate and timely reporting (2 hours time saved in producing a monthly report)

  • Easier identification of capacity for Early Contact Leads to support more studies (over 2 hours time saved in producing workload reports)

  • Assurance that more accurate study records are produced and maintained due to mandatory attributes being set up specifically for the Early Contact service

  • Ability to add attributes to address changing requirements and reporting needs

  • Additional functionality of workflows to monitor progress of studies across the research delivery pathway

  • A more satisfied line manager (our data enthusiast) at these results!

In summary, EDGE has given the CRN West Midlands Early Contact team the ability to streamline current processes, ensure more accurate study records are maintained, and instill confidence in the data produced. As a team we are still chased for any data gaps and you can almost hear the groan in the office as the monthly data gaps email gets circulated! However, we have processes in place to rectify missing data to ensure the complete picture is captured.

It is inevitable that there will be changing requirements and reporting needs but EDGE currently gives us the ability to capture the data needs and stay agile to support future change.

Blog by Dr. Kirsty Hunter
Research Support Manager
CRN West Midlands