Tips to Design an Optimal Case Report Form

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According to the ICH GCP, a CRF is a printed, optical or electronic document designed to record everything related to the protocol, containing the required information to be reported on each trial subject. The CRF is essential in clinical trials, as it ensures the quality, accuracy, completeness, and regulatory compliance of data collection. It provides a standardized format for collecting data, ensuring that information is collected uniformly, systematically, and in accordance with international standards for clinical research. CRFs also allow for the documentation of any incidents or protocol deviations that occur during the trial. Furthermore, CRFs provide a means of communication between the different members of the research team and other stakeholders, such as sponsors, regulatory bodies, or ethics committees. Finally, by centralizing data collection in a single document, the CRF helps maintain data integrity, ensuring that trial results are reliable and reproducible.

Designing an Optimal CRF

CRF design activity must start once the final version of the protocol is released. To ensure an optimal outcome, it is necessary to consider the following:

  1. Avoid Duplication: Collect only data specified by the protocol, avoiding referential and redundant data points within the CRF.

  2. Be Clear and Concise: Keep the CRF's questions, prompts, and instructions clear and concise, using understandable language that avoids unnecessary technicalities.

  3. Proper Formatting: Use a uniform structure and format for all sections and fields, ensuring that terms, definitions, and units of measurement are consistent throughout the CRF.

  4. Adequate Data Flow: The CRF must follow the data flow from the perspective of the person completing it. It is important to organize the questions in a logical and sequential manner, taking into account the flow of study procedures and involving all members of the research team in the design of the CRF to ensure that it is practical and useful from different perspectives.

  5. Alignment with Protocol: Design the CRF with the primary safety and efficacy endpoints in mind as the main goal of data collection.

  6. Standard Data Forms: Ensure database specifications detail the name of variables as well as the type.

  7. Consistency: Implement measures to promote accurate and smooth subsequent analysis of the data, such as using standard coding and ensuring that the CRF is compatible with the data analysis tools used in the study.

  8. Review & Validation: Use validation mechanisms to minimize data entry errors and ensure adequate quality control.

  9. Planning: Make the CRF available at the clinical site prior to enrollment of a subject.

  10. Support Material: Document training of clinical site personnel on the protocol, CRF completion instructions, and data submittal procedures prior to enrollment of a subject.

  11. User-Friendly Interface: Ensure that the CRF interface is user-friendly and intuitive to facilitate ease of use and minimize user error.

  12. Flexibility for Amendments: Design the CRF to be flexible enough to accommodate amendments or protocol changes without major overhauls.

  13. Integration with Other Systems: Ensure the CRF can integrate with other data management systems used in the study.


Maria Agueda, Senior Director, Data Management 

Originally established in Japan, Linical is global Contract Research Organization (CRO) for full-service drug development with the experience, resources, and know-how to successfully conduct clinical trials across all major markets including North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. We provide a full spectrum of drug development services from early stage to large-scale, multinational studies. Our areas of focus include Phase I-IV studies in oncology, neurology & psychiatry, immunology & vaccine, and endocrinology & metabolic diseases.

Linical offers sponsors flexible data management solutions based on cost, timelines, study size and clinical strategy. We have the necessary experience, resources, and processes to guarantee efficient data management throughout the clinical trial. Our 20+ years of experience in clinical data management spans trials across North America, Europe, and Asia, and we have worked on numerous global projects ranging from phase I, II, and III clinical trials to late-phase, observational studies. Linical’s DM capabilities are designed to give you accurate and actionable data, in a timely manner ensuring the integrity, reliability, and efficiency of information management.

Want to learn more about our Data Management capabilities? Contact us!