Do You Have Records Management Problems?

If you look through my blog posts and LinkedIn updates over recent years, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that all I do is support pharmaceutical companies with their trial master files (TMFs). It is true that this has taken up a significant proportion of my consulting time in the last 5-7 years, largely because of the heightened focus on these records by regulatory authorities. And it is always enjoyable to work with my TMF colleagues…. we joke that “TMF” actually means “Too Much Fun”!

However, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that we do much more than this! Let’s run through the scope.

In terms of the industry sectors that I support, my main experience and expertise is in health sciences…. so that is the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry and other organisations that work on health, medical devices and medicines development. However, I also have experience in other sectors, such as financial services, education and engineering services. Many of the records management principles that are applicable in health sciences are transferable to other sectors.

What aspects of records management do I support? I guess the right question to ask is what aspects of records management do I NOT support! I actually cover most, and this would include:

  • Policy development, for example: records management policy to comply with GDPR and other requirements; legal hold policy to prevent the inappropriate destruction of records during litigation or other disputes; IT acceptable use policy; employee exit policy to ensure the orderly management of records prior to employees leaving the company. Do you have all of these in place?
  • Process development, for example: processes to support the identification, classification and correct disposition of records; processes to support creation and management of an archive (on site, off site or digital); optimisation of record keeping processes in specific business functions; alignment of record keeping processes with applicable regulatory requirements to ensure compliance and efficiency.
  • Record classification, including the development of taxonomies that support effective management of records in the business, in records centres, in archives and that support defensible destruction. Associated with this is the review and/or development of records retention schedules…. having in place an approved document that describes how long specific types of records are to be retained for (for most companies, this is a requirement of GDPR).
  • Training, including development and (if needed) delivery of training to support your records management policies and procedures, record clean-up days, GDPR requirements.
  • Strategy development, providing advice and support in areas such as deployment of electronic signature technology, organisational models for records management support, outsourcing of record keeping activities, and risk management.

And the list goes on! In short, if your organisation has records management issues that you are struggling to manage because of a lack of experience, expertise or resource, please reach out to me. I’m here to help!

ps. feel free to use the “Like” and “Share” buttons!!

Posted in Compliance, Data protection, Records management practice | Leave a comment

Launch of our new Training Programme

We are very excited to announce the launch of a new series of training events.

Some of you will know that we have scheduled one-day workshops on various topics from time to time but these have often been poorly attended due to the timing not being convenient for attendees and the inability of some delegates to travel due to budget constraints or company policy.

We’ve therefore taken the decision to offer training as short webinars on specialist topics to be purchased and made available “on demand”.  These are listed on our website but are available for purchase and viewing from a third-party hosting partner. These are high quality, affordable and accessible. Our first webinar – The TMF Reference Model – is available now.

Over the coming months, new topics will be added to the curriculum (please let us know if you’d like to see a subject added or if you have any feedback for us).

Some of our workshops may still be available in traditional workshop format – for example, our TMF Masterclass – and we continue to offer bespoke training on site, upon request.

Hope to see you online soon!

Posted in TMF, Training | Leave a comment

Last call for TMF Masterclass

Last call! There’s only 3 weeks to go until our TMF Masterclass and still some delegate spaces to fill. Early-bird discounted booking closes in a few hours so please do not delay. This is not a standard presentation-style workshop. If you have challenges with your TMF process and/or system, this is THE event for you. We won’t be covering “the basics” because you already know those! We’ll be rolling up our sleeves and finding solutions to the problems that you bring to the workshop. So perhaps you are about to embark on an eTMF project or maybe struggling with improving compliance of your TMF processes. These are topics we’d love to cover with you. All this for £350. Don’t miss out – book now!!


Posted in TMF

Here’s How to Achieve TMF Excellence

Since becoming a freelance consultant in 2004, I have been involved with around 50 different projects to improve practices for managing clinical trial records (aka the trial master file or TMF). In many of these, the company concerned had chosen an electronic document management system for TMF management (eTMF) and required my assistance to implement the technology as efficiently and effectively as possible. This involves re-engineering the processes to be aligned with functionality of the technology and implementing various change management activities. The projects were much more complex than this but in a nutshell, that was usually the primary objective (simplified for the purposes of this blog!).

Several months ago, I took a step back and assessed the effectiveness of those projects. In many cases, the changes introduced were not always delivering the results that I expected and it was apparent that the primary reason was the company’s choice of process that was implemented; I never impose a process on a client….. it is always their choice and I do my best to optimise the choice that they have made.

In addition, last year I conducted research across the industry to try to determine how successful companies were at managing their trial master files and if they were struggling, what the root cause was. This research included three workshops that I conducted at industry conferences (DIA, IQPC and ExL-Events), involving almost 100 participants in total. My analysis shows:

  • despite efforts to improve processes and adopt best-in-class technology, companies are still not achieving great levels of compliance with regulatory requirements;
  • where some success has been achieved, it has usually required significant ongoing expenditure on quality control activities (i.e. high financial cost); and
  • improvements in TMF completeness and quality are often only achieved through dependence on constant monitoring of quality and implementing laborious checks.

Does this sound familiar? Is this your experience too? Have you implemented an eTMF but are finding that it is still a real struggle to achieve any significant improvement in TMF quality or completeness without constantly badgering people to conduct their quality reviews?

The good news is that the research I conducted also showed what the solution is….. and VERY clearly! I am very excited to start sharing this with colleagues and helping turn their situation around. I am confident that I have the solution to this puzzle…. and it is not dependent upon spending huge sums of money either!! If you want to be part of this, just give me a call and I’ll be only too pleased to let you in on the secret!

Posted in e-records, TMF, Uncategorized

Ready for a TMF Masterclass?

After a break of almost two years, we are planning to schedule another TMF Masterclass. Is this something that you or a colleague would benefit from? If so, please read on.

This will be an intensive 1-day, interactive workshop for colleagues who are already familiar with the fundamental principles and requirements for the Trial Master File (TMF). It will take your knowledge to the next level by examining the requirements applicable for an eTMF environment. Maybe you are about to start considering the implementation of an eTMF solution or you are struggling to make your eTMF work effectively within your company? This workshop will definitely be for you!

We will look at a range of different topics and, where possible, will adjust the content to meet the specific needs of those attending. We’ll likely be covering topics such as:

  • metadata and naming conventions;
  • quality control – when and how to manage quality;
  • record lifecycle management with an eTMF;
  • signature technologies;
  • how to increase levels of compliance;
  • how to differentiate between systems during the procurement process.

Space is limited for this event so please consult colleagues within your company quickly to reserve your place. The date is likely to be during the last week in March but we are currently flexible on the timing until we have the required minimum number of attendees. In the first instance, please register your interest in the Masterclass (no financial commitment) and we’ll get back to you.

Posted in Uncategorized

MHRA Publishes Latest GCP Inspection Findings

The MHRA today released on their website their annual report of GCP inspection findings. It is interesting to note two critical findings for data integrity issues…. something that industry has been talking much about over recent months. It would be wise to do a comprehensive review of the MHRA draft guidance on this topic!

In addition, the MHRA cited a critical finding for management and maintenance of the trial master file (TMF). This includes the following:

  • The TMF was not defined (i.e., no quality system record to confirm all the systems that held TMF records, e.g. regulatory document system)
  • TMFs provided for inspection were incomplete (missing records)
  • There was a lack of Quality Control (QC) process of the TMFs
  • The DIA TMF Reference model had been implemented (although with modifications) via a table of contents for each trial to identify the location of TMF essential documents in defined sections, however the structure of the actual TMF electronic folders had not been changed to reflect the model.
  • The TMF table of contents was found to be unreliable as the location of documents was not accurate.
  • The document date was in the file name and the date in the system was either the upload date or finalisation date. For this reason it was not possible to order documents in document date order.
  • There was a lack of integration with other TMF systems i.e. there were no links or placeholders directing the inspectors to the relevant repository or system for the relevant documents and data.
  • It was not possible to set the TMF to archive status to prevent further changes.
  • Documents were not consistently held in the TMF.
  • Previous versions of documents were not present.
  • There was extensive duplication of scanned documents.
  • There was evidence that the uploading of documents was not being undertaken in a timely manner.
  • If a document was not “finalised”, the inspectors could not view it.

Many of these observation reflect what is now becoming our common industry understanding of the MHRA expectations for a TMF…. so shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. However, it may be worth passing comment on a couple of these topics:

  • I found it interesting to note the comment regarding not being able to view a “finalised” document. My assumption – and this is only conjecture – is that this does not imply a requirement to view draft documents but is simply the fact that a final document had not had its status changed in the eTMF to “finalised” and was therefore not accessible. If this however relates to an expectation to view non-final (i.e. draft, unapproved) documents in the eTMF, that would represent a major shift.
  • As I predicted, the MHRA seem to be providing greater focus on archive processes and how systems comply with the regulatory requirements for an archive. This means under the control of an archivist and having the necessary security and access controls (amongst many other requirements!).
  • The lack of integration comment is also an interesting one…. I would like to know more about this one. For sure, the location of all TMF content must be very clear and it must be readily and directly accessible wherever it may be stored. But this is the first time I’ve come across any kind of expectation that an eTMF should be integrated with sources of document content held elsewhere. Placeholders or a TMF Index…. yes.
  • And great to see that the TMF Reference Model was in use…. though disappointing that there seems to have been some inconsistency in the way it was adopted.

Go to the MHRA website to view the full report.

Posted in Regulations, TMF | Leave a comment

What’s in a name?

“A rose by any other name would name would smell as sweet” is a frequently referenced quote from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet…. meaning that the name is not as important as the object itself. This blog post is a departure for me. Rather than bring you some great announcement , revelation or insight into some aspect of records management, I’m going to jot down a few thoughts about an issue I’m struggling with a little at the moment. I hope you stick with me on this!

An industry group I support and get myself involved with is proposing to change its name. It has had the same name since it formed over 35 years ago and the name was a reasonable reflection of what the group did at that time (though not perfect). However, over time – and especially over the last 10 years or so – the focus of the group has changed. Reflecting the needs of industry, the changing regulatory framework and the way records management has evolved, the group now meets the needs of a much broader spectrum of individuals and the work they do. As a result, the name no longer reflects what the group is about. It is also a sad but true fact that in some quarters, the name is actually an issue of fun, embarrassment or ridicule.

Does it matter? I think the answer depends on your perspective.

From the perspective of a member of the group – just as in Romeo and Juliet – the name should not really matter. I join a group because of what the group does and what it stands for…. the name is rather inconsequential. I couldn’t really care less if AIIM, ARMA, IRMS, RQA etc, etc changed their name (as most of them actually have done in the past!). What matters is what these organisations do.

But from the perspective of the group itself, the name definitely matters. The name is a major marketing tool to say to prospective members what the group does. It is there to signify to stakeholders and bodies that the group is trying to influence and engage with that the group has relevance. It is there to attract attendees to events, meetings, conferences and training courses by aligning itself with the professional development needs of those individuals. Thus, a name may carry a valid historical significance but it no longer has resonance with most members or with the population that the group is aiming to attract….. and therefore needs to change.

So this blog post comes out of a sense of frustration from those who cling on to a name that represents the past rather than seize the opportunity to take us forwards into the next 35 years. For me, the past should be respected but the future should be prepared.

Posted in Records management practice, Training | Leave a comment