Monday, January 15, 2018

Study Sites: Show 'Em Your QC!

Sites frequently want to know how they can stand out to Sponsors and CROs to win more studies.
Our advice: Implement internal QC procedures.

Sponsors and CROs we work with consider a tight quality control program to be evidence that a site can be counted on to produce reliable data. It shows that managing quality at your site is a continual process, and doesn’t wait for monitors to arrive. In a risk-based monitoring environment, this is an increasingly compelling attribute.

Where to Start: The Usual Suspects
It makes sense for you to focus your QC efforts on those areas where you’ve historically had the most problems. If the phrase “trend analysis” makes you want to jump through a window -- it's okay -- you can climb back inside. You don't have to do a trend analysis. We've identified 3 areas in which audit findings are common and how you can avoid them.

Adverse Events (AEs) and Concomitant Medications (ConMeds). Often two sides of the same coin, AE and ConMed documentation needs to tell a consistent story. If source documents indicate a study participant had a sinus infection, it must be documented on an AE page, and any associated medications documented on the ConMeds page. A medication noted on the AE page must have a corresponding notation on the ConMed page. And all start and end dates must match across the source, AE, and ConMeds pages.

Drug Accountability Records. Calculating compliance percentages and counting pills are positively uninteresting tasks, easy to mess up, and involve math (which for some people triggers terrifying flashbacks of word problems about trains leaving stations). Is it any wonder that drug accountability records are frequent sources of error? Do some spot-checking: verify that the number of returned tablets matches the tallies recorded for them and recheck compliance calculations.

Essential Documents. Maintaining a complete, organized, uniform set of essential documents is an important, yet decidedly unsexy task. That’s why it’s a good indicator of your commitment to quality; a site that is disciplined enough to keep tight control over its essential documents is likely to carry that control into all aspects of trial execution. Make sure to file all documents associated with protocol amendments, such as IRB approvals and revised informed consent forms -- our auditors find these are the items most frequently missing from the essential document set. 

Write It All Down
Document your QC procedures in an SOP. It will serve as training material for site staff and a repository for worksheets and checklists.

There’s no magic organization for this QC SOP. A general set of instructions could outline how reviewers can verify that all documents follow ALCOA principles. For example, on (paper) source documents, are all pages and required signatures present? Are entries legible? Are corrections initialed, dated, and explained? Does the data make sense and lie within expected ranges? Have all data elements been populated? (Tip: turn the paper upside down to catch missing data.)

Checklists that are focused on particular types of documents should be as specific as possible. For example, QC reviews of source documents for screening visits would verify that the correct informed consent form was used, administration of consent was documented, medical release forms were sent if required, demographics were correct, all labs were received, reviewed and signed, all protocol assessments were completed, and all inclusion/exclusion criteria were met and documented.

A Virtuous Cycle
While designed to control quality, performing QC over time may actually improve quality. Results of QC reviews often suggest revisions you should make to your tools and operations to reduce error in the future.

Okay, you can climb back through the window again -- no one said CAPA. (But wouldn't that be impressive?)


Showcasing Site QC Processes
Does implementing a QC program require resources and time? Yes, and that’s the point. It’s evidence to Sponsors and CROs of your commitment to running a quality study. Not only that, but it demonstrates a proper respect for your study participants by ensuring their data can be used.

Oh, and make sure you highlight your QC program on feasibility questionnaires. It’s something to brag about.

A version of this article originally appeared in InSite, the Journal of the Society for Clinical Research Sites

1 comment:

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