Innovation is an abstract of what we do every day, but a new system that has been a couple of years in the coming will be delivered by Father Christmas this year. A system that will become the spine of information systems across the clinical research economy in the UK, a system that will live up to its hype and can make the performance management of clinical research more easily achieved regardless of study type or location.

Like kids at Christmas we are really excited to have the new system implemented across the networks. It will be the fruition of many minds’ work to specify and design a system that meets a breadth of requirements. Turning business needs into system requirements, which in turn become a technical specification, has been a challenge, particularly when we consider that we have been attempting to ensure the whole network of users are engaged in the delivery. But, as we reach the last sprints of delivery, we believe we have pulled it off.

Making innovation a reality whilst maintaining engagement with a wide range of users is a challenge. The argument that Information Systems professionals are SciFi writers is often levelled when trying to deliver the “Imagine a World” speech.

Flicking through Sunday ‘Magazine TV’ after the wonderful Andrew Marr had finished tearing the latest political guest apart, I came across a very odd headline, “Would you allow a robot to look after your relative with Dementia?”. And there was me thinking the iOS7 was cutting edge! The thrust of the programme though was that technology is ‘nearly close enough’ to be able to deliver mainstream basic care to dementia patients through solutions at home. To me this seemed like something from a late 80s Sci-Fi TV series.

But it did get me thinking over my black pudding and eggs! How far has technology come in comparison to the old ideals of Sci-Fi, particularly in the field of health care? Some examples that sprung to mind: Star Wars – Immerse Luke Skywalker in a liquid jelly for a day and all will be well with his frost bite:

So after Luke is lost in the snow, gets beaten up by an ugly woolly monster and is visited by the ghost of his recently dead ‘uncle’, he eventually gets rescued. Once rescued, Luke is placed in a tank with a weird liquid that is healing his frost bitten body.

And now in 2013 we are able to do something very similar for patients with burns and indeed frost bite.

Star Trek – Hologram doctor and self diagnosis through apps the crew wear: Short of money and trusting a computer’s data base more than a human brain, Starfleet invest in a hologram doctor and fit the crew out with uniforms that monitor their medical conditions and collect the data for analysis.

And now in 2013, one of the hottest products of the year is the UP Wrist Band by JawBone, the perfect solution for the worried well and stay fit fanatics.

So, back to our solution for the performance management of clinical research delivery in the UK. It is no longer science fiction to think that we can deploy a system that can capture information about all clinical research in real time, and with reference data checks and balances within it that ensure data quality is of a very high standard. It’s a fact that by the first couple of months of 2014, the UK will have a system that enables information about studies, levels of recruitment and other none patient identifiable information to be made available to researchers and sponsors, so that research and trials can be managed in a manner akin to the delivery of other health care provisions.

So the next challenge to the team will be where the innovation comes next. I can’t wait to see how the system evolves and how it inspires and acts as a catalyst for cultural change in the delivery of clinical research. It’s going to be a very exciting time and nearly as exciting as the announcement that the next three Star Wars films are going to be made!



NB – The Central Portfolio Management System is the NIHR CRN system described above, the system is being developed by Tribal Education Limited and deployed by the Knowledge and Information directorate within the Clinical Research Network. The system will be launched in mid December 2013 and be live in January 2014.