January 11, 2013 by Tom Zeliff Categories: Solutions

The pharmaceutical industry estimates that launching new drugs takes approximately $1.5 billion and 12 years to go from “discovery” through trials and FDA approval to “delivery” (patient availability). With all of this research, time and money at stake, what if paper-based research in lab notebooks, EKGs and other documents were lost or not accessible for further research?

To leverage the investment and knowledge gained in this research, it must be available in digital format. We believe that all paper research documents and records should to be digitized, and that outsourcing this function to an experienced partner constitutes a best practice because of the size, sometimes fragility and critical importance of these documents. The resulting digital files will allow researchers secure and easy access to an enormous volume of information that was formerly trapped on paper and inaccessible and at risk of being lost or destroyed.

Disaster Prevention & Leverage

Though a significant amount of medical research is created electronically today, there are a lot of legacy paper documents as well as new medical research that includes lab notebook and EKG strips. All of the above is at risk to basements flooding, buildings catching fire and, now, hurricanes hitting even the Northeast. What is particularly alarming is that these paper documents may be the only record of key research data or findings. Scanning and digitizing these documents and storing the resulting images in the cloud or on redundant, on-premise servers is a better way to protect this information and the huge investment made on medical research.

Once digitized, and if optical character recognition and/or other advanced extraction technologies are used in the process, researchers can now perform a full-text search for medical keywords that can lead to information that was trapped on paper in a basement somewhere. Utilizing this information can potentially speed research and shorten time-to-market for a new product, which can also lead to competitive advantage.

Where to Begin?

Medical research in paper form needs to be converted into a digital format by document scanning. The first step in the scanning process is for the paper to be prepped by people that know how to handle and sort a wide variety of documents. The paper is then scanned on specialized scanners using document capture software. For example, lab notebooks and fragile documents need to be scanned on a flatbed, and EKG strips are scanned on scanners that can scan documents up to 1,000 feet or longer. The scanned images then need to be indexed, run through a quality control process to ensure that everything was captured properly.

These images then need to be uploaded into a file repository, which ideally takes the form of a document management system to ensure secure access, version control, searchability, and that integrates with third-party software. Using a cloud document management system offers more cost-effectiveness than on-premise software, and offers greater security than most corporate systems when SSAE 16 certified.

Some companies have the resources to perform this medical research scanning internally, but most outsource to an experienced partner.

Case in Point: Cardiovascular Disease Study

One of the largest research institutes in the country wanted to digitize all of the records for a sub-group of participants in one of the longest and most significant cardiovascular disease studies performed in the U.S. The hospital wanted to share these documents and data with researches as easily and efficiently as possible, and archive the invaluable documents. This was achieved by partnering with Digiscribe New England. We prepped, scanned, indexed, and uploaded all of these newly electronic documents into a document management repository.

Warning: Side Effects May Include Competitive Advantage

Every organization that creates or utilizes medical research in paper form needs to strongly consider having a document scanning partner convert all of this paper into digital form to protect and leverage their investment. Once this information is widely available for researchers, the next one may just happen to develop the next blockbuster drug—a nice potential “side effect” for pharmaceutical and biotech companies.