How Life Science Companies Can Leverage Mobile Technology

 CAB Members Stock ImageMobile technology has come a long way. Smartphones and tablets are getting better, smaller, and less expensive. It is no wonder that almost everyone has one. 

More and more employees use them not just for personal reasons, but to perform some of their work. In many cases, companies are forced to provide IT support for these employees. Those companies find themselves having to catch up with their employees who are leveraging mobile technology.

What does this mean for you? If you work for a life science company, mobile technology can be very helpful. Mobile devices offer access to information and connectivity to other people, anytime and anywhere. Your team members don't need to be in front of a computer to perform their tasks or participate in compliance processes. This kind of flexibility can greatly enhance team coordination, not to mention increase efficiency.

"Using mobile technology in conjunction with a laptop or a computer provides the remote team additional channel for participating in compliance processes and for increased communication with headquarters."

Workplace Scenarios

With mobile technology, tasks such as search, review, and approval of documents; launching forms-based quality processes (e.g. nonconformance, complaints, etc.); data collection; and retrieval of the most up-to-date documents can be performed anytime, anywhere. Let us take a look at the following scenarios in which using an electronic system that allows access via a mobile device can be particularly helpful.

Clinical Trials: Clinical trials are typically conducted in various investigator sites. They involve collaboration between the sponsor and outside partners, such as research institutes, contract research organizations, hospitals, and clinics. Instead of installing cumbersome and complex computers in every site, mobile technology offers a portable alternative. Doctors, nurses, and study coordinators will be able to collect and report site-related information that are usually submitted in forms (e.g., supply inventory and equipment requirements) and access SOPs and other important study documents while working on site.

This is critical in global studies that involve participants in different countries. For example, task coordination may be a problem for investigators and study coordinators involved in clinical trials in remote areas in Africa, where Internet connection is unstable. Mobile networks are more reliable and can serve as a great backup. As more clinical trials are outsourced in China, India, and other countries, mobile technology will become increasingly indispensable.

Remote Work: Many life science companies outsource segments of their work, which means they have remote team members. For some companies, growth and expansion require hiring employees outside of the headquarters or relocating some employees to other states or even overseas. Mobile technology can bridge the physical distance between the headquarters and remote team members by increasing connectivity across time zones. Using mobile technology in conjunction with a laptop or a computer provides the remote team additional channel for participating in compliance processes and for increased communication with headquarters.

Traveling Executives: Traveling managers and executives can potentially delay the review and approval of key milestones and deliverables. With mobile devices, they can easily perform their reviews and approvals wherever they are.

Clean Rooms and Manufacturing Floors: Many clean room and other manufacturing floor workers rely on paper forms or computer kiosks. However, contamination is a concern in using paper or bulky computers in clean rooms. Smartphones and tablets are more "clean room friendly" because they are sealed devices (without fans to move dust around) and they use virtual keyboards. Clean room workers who wear latex gloves will find it easy to use tablets like iPad. For other types of plant floor workers, the challenge lies primarily in efficiency because filling out and collecting paper forms and taking turns using computer kiosks require more time and effort. But mobile devices are as portable as paper forms and exponentially more efficient. For example, in cold-temperature plant floors, it will be faster and more convenient for a worker to input data directly from an equipment into a mobile device than to use paper forms, which would require extra work to transfer the data into a computer.

Mobile technology offers unique opportunities for life science companies. It can significantly increase efficiency and productivity. If your company is using a hybrid system for quality and compliance processes, this is a great time to finally invest in a fully automated system that will allow you to leverage mobile technology. If you are already using an electronic system, utilizing mobile technology in conjunction with your system will help you get more mileage out of your system.

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Cindy Fazzi, a copywriter at MasterControl Inc., writes about the life science industry and other regulated environments. Her two decades of experience as a news reporter, writer, and editor includes working for the Associated Press in Ohio and New York. She has a master's degree in journalism from Ohio State University.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of his/her employer, GxP Lifeline, its editor or MasterControl, Inc.