How Eastern Kentucky University Automates IRB Approvals

  • July 25, 2018

Since adopting InfoReady for their IRB process, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) has realized cost and time savings, increased faculty and staff satisfaction, and experienced overall process improvements.

Before InfoReady was implemented at EKU, their IRB review process was laborious and manual.

We sat down with EKU’s Tiffany Hamblin (Associate Director, Division of Sponsored Programs) to find out why they came to the decision to choose InfoReady for their IRB approval process

Hamblin starts by sharing a sentiment that is felt in most offices of research: “For years, we had desired to implement an online system to manage the various review processes we handle in the Sponsored Programs office. Other solutions we investigated were cost- prohibitive and focused more on System to System functionalities than on internal review processes.”

Once EKU had finalized the implementation of InfoReady for internal funding and limited submission opportunities, Hamblin and colleagues were able to start thinking outside the box to determine which other processes could benefit from being managed in this helpful new system.

From a big picture perspective, EKU’s Division of Sponsored Programs wanted 3 things:

1. Centralized submission processes in one system

2. A consistent submission approach and experience for faculty

3. An easy way to view and share information among office staff

The previous process was a manual effort for all parties during all steps of the process. Faculty members obtained signature approvals from the department and submitted hard copies. Staff efforts included data entry into a database, scanning files, and managing the review process with emails and spreadsheets. Upon approval, the IRB administrator would print hard copies of email correspondence and approval documentation in order to store the record as a hard copy file.

The benefits of the new process were apparent early on and people at EKU have been pleased with the outcomes. Hamblin adds, “It’s been a much better option than processing paper applications”.

  • Online submissions and automated online reviews have helped EKU reduce printing and copying costs. Removing the manual efforts related to these tasks has allowed the IRB administrator to focus her time on facilitating the important touch points between investigators and reviewers (e.g. change requests), and ensuring any updated information is accurate. An added benefit, is that “If someone calls the office for a status update while the IRB administrator is not available, someone else can quickly check the status of an application. Documentation is easily accessible and downloadable for records requests or audits.”
  • Investigators appreciate the less burdensome process for submissions and approvals.
  • IRB members like having a single location to access assigned reviews at any time. The automated reminders help keep them on track with completing reviews.
  • Department chairs now have access to an online history of their approvals.

Overall experience and feedback from Hamblin:

While not originally designed for IRB approval processes, InfoReady has delivered great value at EKU beyond the initially intended uses. EKU and InfoReady work together to identify system enhancements to continually improve how the system can accommodate the IRB process. Hamblin closed the conversation by saying, “We have really made InfoReady a central part of our office’s function. Nearly all the processes that are initiated outside of our office begin in InfoReady. The InfoReady application grids are most always open on our computers, and we use them as a way to manage our workflow for many tasks our office performs.”

Hamblin shared these tips to implement InfoReady for IRB at your institution:

1. Review all aspects of how you currently manage the process and look for ways to improve efficiency. Determine how you can improve your processes and forms, particularly for faculty investigators. Are there items in your application forms that could be simplified or edited for clarity? Is your submission process more complicated than it needs to be?

2. Involve stakeholders in the implementation process. Spend time thinking through processes and workflow for the initial set-up and test some applications prior to going live. The IRB administrators and reviewers will be more receptive to change and more flexible during implementation if they have been involved from the beginning. They have valuable input to offer that will help make the review process work as efficiently as possible.

3. Create some test applications and route them within your office for mock reviews. This task allowed EKU to identify potential issues and address them prior to the receipt of applications from investigators.

4. Be flexible. “We have maintained a flexible attitude with feedback and are thankful that InfoReady Review allows us the opportunity to make adjustments as our process evolves over time.”

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