The way in which clinical research trials are managed in UK hospitals could be transformed by a next-generation software system developed within the NHS.
The Edge platform allows any research professional involved in a study to access, for the first time, detailed real-time data about its progress from any location via a secure web interface.
Already being trialled at a number of sites in England, Edge developers say it could be a potential lynchpin in the delivery of Best Research for Best Health, the government's strategy to make the UK a world-leader in clinical research.
Edge will be launched officially on 25 June at the Association of British Healthcare Industries' annual conference at Olympia, London.
John Stedman, chief executive of NHS Innovations South East, which has helped to make Edge commercially viable, said, "The aim of clinical research must be not only to address the challenges that disease and ill health present, but also command confidence of the public and protect the integrity of the research participants.
"It also has a major role to play in the 'knowledge economy' of our country."
Stedman said it is predicted that the Department of Health will spend more than £1bn on health research and development by 2010/11, based on last year's Comprehensive Spending Review.
"If we are to improve and streamline research management and governance, then a robust, cost-effective IT system that enables NHS trusts and research networks to manage trials more effectively is required," Stedman said.
Edge is the brainchild of James Batchelor and David Miller, head of ICT and lead analyst respectively at the Central South Coast Cancer Research Network.
This is run from the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre at the University of Southampton, in collaboration with Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Batchelor said, "Edge negates the need for teams of data analysts in trust research and development departments to 'number crunch'. It enables research nurses and other clinicians involved in trials to input directly participant accrual information and record use of time and resources.
"This enables co-ordinators at network level to draw reports on trial recruitment at the touch of a button, and enables executive teams to ensure that trials are properly resourced and that they receive the correct level of funding to facilitate them."