Background: Primary data collection is a critical activity in clinical research. Even with significant advances in technical capabilities, clear benefits of use, and even user preferences for using electronic systems for collecting primary data, paper-based data collection is still common in clinical research settings. However, with recent developments in both clinical research and tablet computer technology, the comparative advantages and disadvantages of data collection methods should be determined.
Objective: To describe case studies using multiple methods of data collection, including next-generation tablets, and consider their various advantages and disadvantages.
Materials and Methods: We reviewed 5 modern case studies using primary data collection, using methods ranging from paper to next-generation tablet computers. We performed semistructured telephone interviews with each project, which considered factors relevant to data collection. We address specific issues with workflow, implementation and security for these different methods, and identify differences in implementation that led to different technology considerations for each case study.
Results and Discussion: There remain multiple methods for primary data collection, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Two recent methods are electronic health record templates and next-generation tablet computers. Electronic health record templates can link data directly to medical records, but are notably difficult to use. Current tablet computers are substantially different from previous technologies with regard to user familiarity and software cost. The use of cloud-based storage for tablet computers, however, creates a specific challenge for clinical research that must be considered but can be overcome.