The availability of clinical trial records has increased markedly in recent years. For instance, several documents from numerous sources are often available for a single clinical trial — sometimes with overlapping, but often incomplete information.
Identifying and processing this information involves a great deal of resources and challenges. Using an example of information retrieval for a health technology assessment report, this is shown in the current issue of BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine by two researchers from the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG): Beate Wieseler from the Drug Assessment Department and Natalie McGauran from the Communications Unit.
In their article «From publication bias to lost in information: Why we need a central public portal for clinical trial data», they call for the establishment of a central public portal for clinical trial records in order to simplify and standardize the extremely time-consuming search for these records. The primary goal is the complete and timely availability of so-called «clinical study reports», i.e., of those records that comprehensively describe clinical trials and their results. The establishment of such a portal would also support a further aim of the growing data transparency movement, namely, to improve patient care.
The main target group of the portal would be researchers conducting evidence syntheses as a basis for informed decision-making in health care, such as the development of guidelines or health policy directives.
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