Ensuring Data Integrity: Best Practices for Clinical Trial Security

Clinical trials play a crucial part in the fight against disease and major illnesses. A complex process, it spans many areas from patient recruitment, comparator sourcing, logistics to compliance with regulatory requirements. At the core of all this complexity, one element runs throughout: data acquisition. 

At the heart of clinical trial operations, data security is key to ensuring the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of critical information. In a time of unprecedented technological advancements and heightened concerns over privacy breaches, the need for data security in clinical trials has never been more pressing. Beyond safeguarding sensitive patient information, robust data security measures also ensure the reliability of trial outcomes, underpinning the trustworthiness of medical research.

In this article, we look at the importance of data security within clinical trials and some of the best practices which can be adopted to ensure integrity at all times.

Protecting Sensitive Patient Information

Clinical trials handle vast quantities of sensitive information. This includes directly identifiable patient details such as names, contact information, and medical history. It also encompasses treatment information, for example, dosage instructions and potential side effects. In the case of logistic providers, they may also manage details about the medication being supplied, including batch numbers and expiry dates.

A data breach of this sensitive information can have severe consequences. Regulatory bodies may impose hefty fines for non-compliance with data protection laws. Reputational damage can be significant, discouraging future trial participation from both patients and sponsors. Perhaps most critically, a breach could expose patient privacy, leading to a loss of trust and potentially jeopardizing the entire trial. For instance, if a patient or doctor discovers a patient has been given a placebo due to a data leak, it could undermine the trial’s integrity and force its termination.

Key Considerations for Logistic Providers

Clinical trial logistics providers have a significant ethical and legal responsibility to safeguard this sensitive data. In order to do so, not only do they have to ensure that they, themselves, are following best practices and quality control for their own procedures, they also need to ensure that any third parties they are working with, namely, CROs, clinical sites and data providers, are all following correct, quality procedures.

Common questions need to be addressed such as what types of data and sensitive information will be received, what software/means of communication are being used and where and how is this being stored? Who has access to this data and what regulatory requirements need to be met?

Best Practices for Clinical Trials Data Security

Access to Data: Only personnel with the appropriate authorisation should be allowed access to confidential information. Access should be adequately password protected and, if necessary, further enhanced with multi-factor authentication.

Data Encryption: All data should be suitably encrypted to protect it from being stolen, changed, or compromised at all stages of the trial from transit to storage.

Data Transfer: The transfer of information between parties needs to be secure. Secure file transfer protocols (SFTP) and encryption of emails during transfer will help keep data secure, preventing leakage or unauthorised access. The use of trusted and reliable partners for data transfer is very important.

Data Back-up: A robust data backup plan is essential. Back-ups should be made regularly for disaster recovery should there be a system failure due to a power outage or unforeseen circumstances. The best back-up strategies to suit your needs should be discussed and could involve cloud-based or local backups. A clear back-up plan with recovery procedure should be in place.

Data Retention: Data retention policies should be put in place to outline how long the various types of clinical trial data may be stored. These should address regulatory requirements which specify the minimum period that data can be stored. Once this pre-defined timeframe elapses, policies should provide the secure data disposal methods such as secure deletion using industry-approved software or the anonymisation of information to ensure complete data erasure and ongoing patient privacy.

Regulatory Compliance: There are strict regulatory requirements to be adhered to pertaining to clinical trial logistics. These include the EU General Data Protection regulation (EU GDPR), US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) guidelines.

Staff Training: It is critical that all staff are familiar and comply with data privacy laws. Staff training should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure that they are familiar with legal requirements and best practices.

By implementing robust security measures, logistic providers can ensure patient privacy, maintain regulatory compliance, and contribute to the success of clinical trials.

Oximio – Your Clinical Trial Logistics Partner

At Oximio, your data security is our priority. We are continually investing and improving our technology to ensure secure, streamlined processes for our customers. Read our recent News Announcement regarding our latest update to our Oximio Online Portal.

For further information on our global supply chain solutions for clinical trials, why not contact us and find out how we can assist you with your clinical research with complete peace of mind.