Research Alert

Background: A clinical trial management system (CTMS) is a suite of specialized productivity tools that manage clinical trial processes from study planning to closeout. Using CTMSs has shown remarkable benefits in delivering efficient, auditable, and visualizable clinical trials. However, the current CTMS market is fragmented, and most CTMSs fail to meet expectations because of their inability to support key functions, such as inconsistencies in data captured across multiple sites. Blockchain technology, an emerging distributed ledger technology, is considered to potentially provide a holistic solution to current CTMS challenges by using its unique features, such as transparency, traceability, immutability, and security.

Objective: This study aimed to re-engineer the traditional CTMS by leveraging the unique properties of blockchain technology to create a secure, auditable, efficient, and generalizable CTMS.

Methods: A comprehensive, blockchain-based CTMS that spans all stages of clinical trials, including a sharable trial master file system; a fast recruitment and simplified enrollment system; a timely, secure, and consistent electronic data capture system; a reproducible data analytics system; and an efficient, traceable payment and reimbursement system, was designed and implemented using the Quorum blockchain. Compared with traditional blockchain technologies, such as Ethereum, Quorum blockchain offers higher transaction throughput and lowers transaction latency. Case studies on each application of the CTMS were conducted to assess the feasibility, scalability, stability, and efficiency of the proposed blockchain-based CTMS.

Results: A total of 21.6 million electronic data capture transactions were generated and successfully processed through blockchain, with an average of 335.4 transactions per second. Of the 6000 patients, 1145 were matched in 1.39 seconds using 10 recruitment criteria with an automated matching mechanism implemented by the smart contract. Key features, such as immutability, traceability, and stability, were also tested and empirically proven through case studies.

Conclusions: This study proposed a comprehensive blockchain-based CTMS that covers all stages of the clinical trial process. Compared with our previous research, the proposed system showed an overall better performance. Our system design, implementation, and case studies demonstrated the potential of blockchain technology as a potential solution to CTMS challenges and its ability to perform more health care tasks. 

Journal Link: Journal of Medical Internet Research

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Journal of Medical Internet Research