What is Systems Integration and Single Sign-On and How Can It Help with Clinical Trials?

Posted by Kris Connolly on Sep 23, 2019 2:33:20 PM

This is an excerpt from Longboat's ebook "A Guide to System Integrations and Single Sign-On for Clinical Operations Teams”. To download the full ebook, click here.

As the clinical research industry benefits from new technologies, an issue is emerging: how to juggle so many different eClinical systems. Making sure that your trial stakeholders can access the data they need, when they need it, while not compromising data security or integrity is becoming harder.

One solution is to expand your organization’s capabilities - to bring all systems under one roof. But this brings challenges in terms of resources, expertise, time and cost. The alternative is to embrace systems integration and single-sign-on (SSO).

 

What is Systems Integration?

There has been a proliferation of web-based services and cloud applications across all industry sectors, each one using their own Application Programming Interface (API). An API is essentially a set of clearly defined rules for communication between different software applications.

A good API makes it easier for different computer systems to communicate because it provides all the essential building blocks, which can then be put together easily by a programmer. Increasingly, organizations are recognizing that sharing APIs makes sound business sense. They allow users to realize all of their requirements through a single site and also allow vendors to offer services or functionality that they otherwise would not be able to fulfill themselves.

This is particularly pertinent in the context of clinical trials; facilitating integration of systems with high-quality technologies from other vendors will only strengthen the overall performance of your clinical trial platform. Longboat, for example, provides a suite of secure REST based API's that allow for easy integration between systems.

 

What is Single Sign-on?

APIs will allow you to share data and feeds from one environment to another. However, to truly maximize the potential of systems integration, organizations are also adopting SSO technology.

SSO is a type of Identity Access Management (IAM) that allows you to move from one environment to another without having to log in again. Instead, the system recognizes you as a trusted person and allows you to access the system.

With so many different systems often utilized on a typical trial, having multiple log-in credentials and passwords for applications starts to become unmanageable. SSO offers system administrators the ability to manage credentials at the back-end of the platform to control data access while providing users with a single password. This means that approved users can quickly access different systems and services, and all services integrated in the central server can only be accessed using that single authentication mechanism.

A great example of this is this generation’s home entertainment systems. Today, kids can switch from their smartphone to their X Box to a Smart TV in a different room while still communicating and seamlessly sharing with their friends on various systems in different locations.

 

What do Systems Integration and SSO look like in practice?

Systems integration and SSO are rapidly being adopted by industries across all sectors, to offer a more seamless experience for users and to streamline all kinds of business processes and operations.

These approaches offer huge potential for optimizing processes in clinical trials, by maximizing efficiencies, streamlining the day-to-day operational experience for study teams, and ensuring high levels of data integrity and security.

You’re likely to be already using these technologies. Think about the last time you felt like ordering a take-away. Maybe you weren’t sure if you wanted Chinese or Indian food, or you wanted dinner from your favorite restaurant but they don’t deliver.

Thanks to systems integration, you can now visit a single website and order from a vast array of vendors. You can even ask a wirelessly connected device in your home to order for you. That’s systems integration.

Similarly, if you order a takeaway fairly regularly, the last thing you want is to have to enter and re-enter your address or payment details every time. With single-sign-on, there’s no need: the system remembers your credentials and allows you to access and use the service with a single password.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this in everyday life is social media, where you can now access multiple social platforms and apps by logging in with your Facebook or Google ID.

LB Learning from Other Industries

 

How can Systems Integration and SSO help with clinical trials?

The growing complexity of clinical trials is being met with a new generation of eClinical tools – electronic data capture, centralized trial platforms and risk-based management tools. This shift away from paper-based processes is helping sponsors, CROs, and sites work more productively and efficiently together as a team.

Yet, one of the most common challenges we hear from sponsors, sites, and CROs is that there are too many disparate systems to manage on a clinical trial. Multiple services are also frequently outsourced, often using different systems.  

Those running trials must pull data from various silos or enter data into multiple systems, which requires remembering multiple logins. Indeed, a 2016 CenterWatch report found that the typical investigative site is working with 12 distinct systems to collect clinical research data, and that the majority feel strongly that there are too many usernames and passwords to be managed.

In practice, this means that if data stored in one system is needed by another, study teams may need to manually extract the data from one and input into another. Not only can this have a serious impact on clinical trial timelines, it also creates a data integrity risk because of the potential for introducing errors.

A further issue is access management, with multiple stakeholders each requiring different levels of system access. Trial sponsors and CROs must ensure each employee only has the appropriate level of access to the services they are authorized to use.

With the explosion in the number of services each team uses, this can take considerable time (and cost) for operations teams to both set up and maintain. At the same time, easy access needs to be balanced with managing user credentials to ensure that the employees are accessing the infrastructure securely.  

This is reasonably easy to guarantee in small organizations or for small studies, but once multiple players are involved, especially on international trials, handling these tasks manually becomes very difficult to scale.

One option for sponsors or CROs is to expand capability, usually by merging with or acquiring software companies to bring all systems under one roof. However, this requires the successful merging of people, processes, software, and systems. It takes time, costs money, and is more than likely to slow down progress.

Thankfully, more and more platform providers are becoming open to integrating their systems with others, making it feasible to allow seamless single-point access to the many different types of data and information that flow between the complex networks of stakeholders involved in today’s trials.

This is an excerpt from Longboat's ebook "A Guide to System Integrations and Single Sign-On for Clinical Operations Teams”. To download the full ebook, click here.

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Topics: Single Sign-On, Clinical Operations, Clinical Operations Teams, Systems Integrations