In the world of clinical research, study coordinators often grapple with the challenging task of managing lab kits and clinical inventory by cobbling together paper trails, sticky notes, and spreadsheets. It’s not uncommon for every member of a research site’s team to employ their own unique method for monitoring clinical supplies across the various studies they’re involved in.
But when clinical inventory data and workflows aren’t centralized, digitized, or tech-enabled, it opens the door to significant oversights that can jeopardize the patient experience and place undue stress on limited site resources.
So what can happen when sites don’t have real-time visibility to their inventory across all of their trials and sponsors? In this blog, we explore the top 5 risks that can occur when sites rely on decentralized, paper-based methods for managing their lab kits and other clinical supplies.
When research sites are simultaneously managing multiple trials across a variety of sponsors, the task of tracking current on-hand inventory quantities and expiration dates can be incredibly difficult. This less-than-ideal situation often leaves sites ill-prepared for patient visits. Most protocols mandate stringent visit windows, requiring visits to be performed within specific timeframes. When a site must postpone a visit due to a lack of usable (e.g. unexpired) inventory, the visit may need to be conducted outside of the prescribed window. Even if a site manages to piece together an improvised lab kit using other supplies that they have on hand, this unreliable solution is susceptible to downstream errors during sample processing — including missed sample collections, requisition form errors, and a greater number of queries.
Ultimately, visit deviations not only place an additional administrative burden on site staff — who must generate extra paperwork to document the deviations and their root causes — but they can also pose a significant threat to the integrity of the study by introducing data gaps and jeopardizing patient enrollment and retention.
Behind each lab kit is a patient whose hopes are tethered to a potentially life-saving or life-changing treatment. When a patient must be turned away or rescheduled due to clinical inventory shortages or errors that are committed as a result of creating a makeshift lab kit, it can place a significant burden on a sick patient who is oftentimes already bearing the weight of an illness or medical condition. For some patients, the journey to a research site may span hours of travel from their homes. Postponing planned visits or having to redo a visit that was already performed can translate to treatment delays, more unnecessary travel, or scheduling conflicts.
Without a streamlined way to manage inventory, lab kit expirations can slip through the cracks — resulting in wasted supplies and cluttered storage facilities that already have limited space. Precious site resources must then be diverted to the arduous task of sifting through inventory, identifying expired items, reporting them to kitting vendors for restocking, and navigating the intricate process of disposal. As highlighted in one of our previous blogs that recapped one of our roundtable discussions with site personnel, clinical researchers are often left feeling conflicted about the preventable disposal of plastic waste, while also grappling with the time-consuming sorting process that diverts valuable resources from more pressing tasks.
While every research site maintains its own distinctive approach to storing and organizing lab kits and other clinical inventory, there seems to be a common thread: limited storage space leads to crowding. For sites lacking a centralized system for managing clinical inventory, the search for a specific lab kit can be a lengthy ordeal, especially when on-site inventory numbers are in the hundreds or thousands. Site staff may also lack visibility to the status of incoming lab kit orders, forcing them to spend their valuable time confirming whether an order has been placed and when it’s expected to reach the site. These menial tasks can quickly accumulate, needlessly consuming hours of site resources on a weekly basis.
It’s not uncommon for study coordinators and other site staff to lend their support across various trials — often due to the challenges posed by turnover, vacation periods, and unexpected sick leaves. Effective coordination among site staff is critical in smoothing the transition of responsibilities. However, if inventory management within a research site is not centralized, the seamless handoff of tasks can be tricky. For instance, one study coordinator may not have full visibility to lab kits ordered by another study coordinator — leading to lost kits or unnecessary duplicate orders.
Slope’s clinical trial execution platform is free for sites, enabling site staff to track their inventory data and workflows in a centralized, easy-to-use digital platform. With the ability to monitor real-time inventory quantities, expiration dates, and supply locations in your facility, you can ensure that your site will always be prepared for every patient visit while also reclaiming precious time for more pressing tasks.
Click here to join the 60%+ of NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the U.S. who are using Slope to manage clinical inventory. In the meantime, read more about how The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hillman Cancer Center (UPMC HCC) leveraged Slope’s platform to account for 100% of their unexpired inventory in one of their disease centers in just a few months’ time.