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Data capture in Research


Impact of research

Just like the solar system is made of different elements, so is the human body. This magnificent recipe that makes us the most advanced and adaptable beings of time, means that sometimes the recipes can go wrong and we begin to develop symptoms. When this happens, we think we are trying to work out what has gone wrong and how to fix it. However, this is not entirely true. What we actually do is try and find a drug or procedure that will help us.

However, for those not involved in this process, many individuals underestimate the science, time and dedication that has gone into developing and discovering the drug or treatment that is set to help us, and this is why research matters so much.

Not only does research open doors for new innovative devices and drugs that can positively influence the quality of care and save lives, but it also, provides a never ending platform for progression over time. Data collected in research turns into big data and can be applicable many years down the line.

Research opens doors for new innovative devices and drugs that can positively influence the quality of care and save lives. It also, provides a never ending platform for progression over time. Data collected in research turns into big data and can be applicable many years down the line.

Improving the health of the nation through research means people are able to cope with chronic illnesses better and practitioners are given the ability to understand and explain complex issues better, which will reflect in the care that is provided to patients. The development of innovative treatments means that patients will not only receive the highest level of care but the care will also be more effective, resulting in a better outcome with an overall positive impact on the quality of life.

Research can take several years, this is because the development of new devices and drugs have to go through a very stringent process before being available to use. Because of this reason, it is imperative that we understand how to whittle down the time taken to help save lives. Learning from past mistakes and prior knowledge can help.

One of the main components in research is the evidence based data. This data allows researchers to gain a better understanding of their research and what the outcomes are. Everyday aspiring individuals are developing their own hypothesis in medical research in the hope that their findings prove beneficial and can eventually improve the quality of life for people who may experience particular symptoms or have a certain condition.

At DCC we enjoy working with researchers because we know we are all connected, the past 16 years we have had the privilege of being involved in a wide range on performance measures, conditions, specialities and bring this learning and experience to be applied to any project and we hope we are doing our bit to making people, systems, science, and care better. We know data capture is only part of the journey and there are many components and protocols in managing studies. It’s the entirety of findings and the confidence in the data accuracy and the time to ask questions, measure and monitor and continue asking questions and questioning data do we begin to build a picture of understanding.

The Impact of research can be life changing for, not only those close to you, but also for thousands of others who may be in similar positions. The impact will be not just on the quality of life, but eradicating the illness, along with the enormity in the amount of knowledge gained in the process will be valuable, as sharing information between research and medical practitioners will improve care vastly.

Identifying conditions quicker means a diagnoses can be made promptly with certainty, leading to quicker treatment. The reflection of this in today’s society means the strains of the health care system can be vastly improved. By making procedures easier and quicker, they can be introduced at GP care level, eliminating strain on A&E departments and hospitals as a whole. Smaller centres can do more which means less waiting times across healthcare. This also means people within the medical profession are less stretched, allowing them to provide the level of care that patients deserve, resulting in less mortality.

Like an hour glass, the findings from research have an effect on everyone. Imagine the top of the hour glass which is filled with sand, representing researchers and the amount of research that is being conducted. As you work your way down the hour glass, and as it narrows, the research becomes more defined and streamlined. Slowly as the sand reaches the narrowest part of the hour glass, this would represent the research reaching a point where the deployment of a new drug and/or devices comes into production or simply a better processes, clinical and care pathways developed because we have a greater understanding, educating patients and frontline wards staff on after care and best practice builds reassurance, faith, trust and confidence in our healthcare system, investment in not only monetary terms through taxes and funding but peoples belief and care and pride in our NHS being a worldwide example and beacon to other healthcare around the world aspire, share and adopt each other’s practices. Eventually, the sand falling through the hour glass to the bottom represents the new innovative medications and procedures being spread to the wider society.

Our contribution to research
At DCC we look to encourage our ideology of the 3 C’s
– Connect
– Communicate
– Collaborate

These 3 concepts ensure that researchers understand how beneficial their research can potentially be, not necessarily within one area but across multiple audiences.
We can provide data capture as an in-house solution and or as a service where you don’t have the capacity to manage projects in-house but require the expertise and reassurance the data is being managed in accordance with your study methodology logging and tracking your data, applying the stages together with any logic and routing. This can be done by using already existing forms or creating new forms for data capture as seen below.

At DCC we understand the amount of planning and effort that goes into the preparation of these research studies, ranging from:
• Identifying your sample
• Ethical approval
• Deciding on the most appropriate methodologies and what measures are involved.
• Applying for sufficient funding
• Data collection
• Analysis

We can provide data capture as an in-house solution and or as a service where you don’t have the capacity to manage projects in-house but require the expertise and reassurance the data is being managed in accordance with your study methodology logging and tracking your data, applying the stages together with any logic and routing.

DCC have an extensive history of working alongside researchers assisting them when managing the data collection element. We offer our skills and expertise to help professionals design their forms to ensure participants find the documentation simple to complete and that accurate answers can be collected i.e. ensuring a DOB is written as DD/MM/YYYY as opposed to written in words as this can cause issues when sorting the dataset.

More importantly, replicating results into an electronic format, particularly after receiving a large amount of responses via paper, can prove to be labour intensive and delay the opportunity to begin analysis on the data sooner. DCC utilise specialist data capture technology which allows us to automatically extract responses from paper documents without the need for manual data entry. The types of information that can be extracted are demonstrated by clicking on the image below:

image one

Following quality checks of the data, DCC securely return the raw data file to the researchers in a format that they require allowing them to interpret the data using their own software such as, CSV, xlsx, SPSS etc. By removing the manual data entry element:
– Researchers make better use of funding
– Can allocate their time on more important matters
– Begin the analysis in a quicker turnaround time to determine the findings of the research.

The methods used for data collection are based on various factors which include:
– The measures involved
– The type of data required – Quantitative vs Qualitative
– The participants and accessibility
– Environment & Setting where the data will be collected
– Time available and how long it will take the patient to complete
– Funding available and restraints

Having worked with a variety of researchers from multiple medical backgrounds, DCC have developed a thorough understanding of data collection methods and how best to conduct each one to ensure that a high response rate is achieved.

In most cases, researchers come to us with a sample or template of the forms that they intend to use for their research. Having worked on a wide scope of forms across multiple branches of health and medical research, DCC have beyond sufficient experience when it comes to form design and will do the best to ensure that re-designs are made to the highest standard. We work with the researchers to understand exactly the manner in which questions are asked and what the ideal answer format should be. Where applicable, we advise the people we work with where improvements can be made i.e. the way a question is asked such as using constraint fields as opposed to open text boxes. As with all research, ethics is a vital component and when it comes to the phrasing of the questions, it is important that responders do not feel they are being influenced by the wording of the question.

image two

Where data capture is being collected across multiple sites and network infrastructure, there are many aspects of network connectivity, security and administration that need to be considered, paper may not be the preferred method and some projects require a multi-channel approach having both an electronic and paper data capture method using electronic online forms, where this is necessary we can advise on features, functionality and costs.

Paper – Onsite
As with all research methodologies, each has its strengths and weaknesses when implementing it to collect data. Using paper forms is one of the most common ways to gather data. When designing a form on paper, printing costs can prove to be expensive, in particular if there is an extensive list of questions and if there is a lot of white space on the page, which in turn leads to an increase in page numbers. Many forms have been designed on Microsoft Word and hence sometimes do not make it easy for respondents to answer correctly. DCC use specialist intelligent form processing survey design software to quickly re-design a current form to minimise white space and develop specific question types with ease i.e. matrix grid, constraint fields and more.
It is worth noting that paper questionnaires should be kept short in length if being completed onsite at a hospital or GP environment as it can be a timely exercise for participants should there be too many questions, in particular if they have other priorities to attend to. If questionnaires are short in length, this may also encourage response rates.
Keep in consideration that once the documents are completed they must remain securely stored as they will contain personal information, so ensure that security and storage space has been accounted for prior to using this methodology. Furthermore, the responses will have to be replicated via manual data entry at some point, or DCC can handle this element and extract the information automatically without the need for researchers to use up valuable time.

Paper – Postal
Postal questionnaires should be used when the length of the survey is particularly long and as a result respondents should have sufficient time to complete it before returning. Firstly, part of the funding will go on the costs of postage both outbound and returns, as well as purchasing the physical envelopes. The contents of the envelope will dictate the cost to send and receive each questionnaire pack. Postal questionnaires should be used to cater towards those who may not have access to a PC / tablet or quite simply prefer to complete the survey via paper.
Secondly, it is usually worth having a reminder mail out to maximise the number of responses recorded and to achieve a required number of participants. Take into consideration the additional printing and postage costs this will incur. To reduce the amount of expenditure on the second mail out, only send a reminder to non-responders. These people can be identified by assigning an ID to each participant and cross referencing the returns with this list to determine who has responded and who has not.
Once again these forms will have to be replicated into an electronic database either via manual data entry or using DCC’s services so account for a potential time delay.

Tablet devices
Using a tablet device onsite to collect data can prove to be quite convenient as it removes the element of manual data entry as the data is saved in an electronic format automatically. The functionality with a tablet device means questions can be displayed better without worrying about space. In addition, users can zoom into questions should they be unable to read the current size of the text. As a researcher you will also need to take into consideration the cost associated to purchasing a tablet if the environment you are in does not have one.
Within hospitals and GP’s, having access to connectivity can sometimes prove an issue. It is important that if a survey is being completed online, that connectivity is available in order for the data to be sent to the database or be saved. In some cases it is possible to save responses while offline and then initiate a sync when a connection becomes available. However, it is important to make sure this function is available with the survey provider before assuming that responses will be saved.
The tablet can either be given to the participant allowing them to complete it or can be done almost as an interview whereby the researcher asks and shows the question to the individual who gives the responses. Ensure that the participant is able to see the responses you are selecting so that they know you are not altering the answers that are given.

The benefit of an online form is that users are able to complete the surveys at a time convenient for them. This is particularly useful when the survey is lengthy and a lot of questions are asked. Considering so many people are smartphone or tablet owners, try to utilise a survey service which will automatically make the survey design compatible with mobile and tablet devices. By offering multiple channels of completion, the participant is more likely to complete the survey as they will choose a method convenient for them.

Should the survey contain a lot of questions and therefore consume a lot of time, be aware of the possibility of survey fatigue. Survey fatigue is a problem which occurs when the respondent begins to lose interest in answering questions and as a result the answers that are produced from this point onwards may be questioned in terms of validity as they may produce false answers to simply complete the survey as soon as possible.


It comes from being on both sides of the fence, having been patients ourselves, being involved in research and having friends and families who like us need your passion and research finding solutions, developing science, care, collaboration and sharing understanding across agencies

Overall, economic climates and current world news all seem to be doom and gloom, cuts in funding for all our public care systems and protests are allowing us to reflect and ask ourselves better questions as to what they mean to us individually and through this “self-talk” we think it’s changing the way people think, adopting different mind-sets means we are better at being more creative, we are more receptive to different ways of thinking and applying innovation in smart technology is accelerating and forward thinking.

Having access to qwiki information is on tap today, it educates the everyday you and me in our own space and time, we can be as informed as we like today on virtually everything from baking cakes, fixing care, to understanding genomes and open heart surgery. We are better at asking the right questions and come away reassured, more aware and appreciative of the elements involved.
It’s not just about what money can buy in terms of services and technology but equally how we use them, streamline to build greater capacity, reduces wastage, build knowledge, time, accountability and ability to ask questions to be more creative, to grow understanding and our NHS system. To promote ownership through being involved and taking part in research will promote, build stronger and better systems and keep the NHS and research working side by side.

It feels like we seem to spend every penny and we never speak of saving money for a rainy day which is what we are taught from childhood or celebrate the achievements we’ve made.
We are constantly paying for failures, bombarded by daily crisis, in justice and cover ups before even reaching the end of a day or week, the government can’t give enough and yet it’s us the people, our behaviour and actions, influence in senior positions hindered by office politics, culture, “red tape”, we manipulate, create and cause our own havoc and have to constantly learn from our own mistakes, enquiry after enquiry.

When it’s probably quite simple, just be better people to ensure we leave a healthy healthcare system and that’s why Research Matters. So as the supermarket say every little helps and that means us, we have the capacity, knowledge and understanding to change everything today, right here and now.

For further information or to arrange a consultation on form design please contact us on