How to Choose an IRT for Your Clinical Trial (Obsolete–See 10/17/2017)


Interactive Response Technology (IRT) is the currently accepted term for IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and IWR (Interactive Web Response) systems used in clinical trials. In the not very distant past, the IVRS was the standard method of adding IRT to the suite of tools used to execute a clinical trial. Development of response technology on the web, which began in the early 2000’s, constituted a paradigm shift for the industry, and fueled the expansion of IRT’s role and capabilities.

Today, the web, not the phone, is the preferred IRT platform for most clinical trials, with some important exceptions—for example when only subject diaries are being collected in the IRT and subjects are asked to call in their self reports. The phone component is otherwise typically contracted as an “also” or “backup” option to the primary web system—most useful in locations where web capabilities remain suspect or when having both IRT platforms available is more conducive to protocol execution—for example, when screening or randomization has to occur in a surgical arena with the subject on the table! In the modern sphere, integration between the web and phone arms of an IRT platform therefore remains critical, one of the important items on a complete checklist for how to choose an IRT for your clinical trial.

While the technology has surged ahead, information on what today’s IRT systems can do and should offer has lagged behind. And the world keeps changing. Even now, the uses of IRT are in transition—a subject we will return to later.

This article was prompted by requests from our colleagues —Sponsors, CROs, and Clinical Suppliers—for a comprehensive summary of features and issues to consider when vetting IRT systems. Veracity Logic (VL), based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, specializes exclusively in providing interactive response technology for clinical trials.

The checklist below derives from our experience with more than 125 trials and 50-plus clients, in more than 45 countries over the past decade, including the critical transition years from phone to web. It is a fair statement of capabilities you can reasonably expect from an IRT vendor, and it is our recommended reference guide for issues to consider when selecting your IRT provider.

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Around the Corner

As noted earlier, new uses of the IRT are becoming available almost as quickly as one can define them. As of this writing, some cutting-edge capabilities, not yet provided by all or even most vendors, include:

Forecasting: A step beyond predictive inventory control during a trial, providing additional planning algorithms for drug manufacture and distribution.
Mobile compatibility: The ability to access the IRT system on diverse mobile devices and platforms, with no diminishment of look, feel, or capability.
Drug pooling capabilities: The ability to assign drug across protocols, generally controlled by a dashboard-type management tool within the IRT.

Companies vetting IRT vendors should be sure to initiate conversations on the status of these capabilities and/or plans for implementation in the future.

Checklists like this are living documents; they must be updated as the industry progresses. Got more items to add to the checklist? Send them to