Introduction: The Alberta Cancer Board Palliative Care Research Initiative (ACBPCRI) encourages province-wide collaboration on palliative care research projects. Because of geographic differences in information system infrastructure, it is necessary to evaluate and adopt a data collection tool that will span the variability in system hardware and software. We assessed TELEform (Cardiff Sofware Inc., Vista CA), an optical recognition-based technology that scans data collection paper forms and exports data to a computer database. We examined work place suitability, data quality, and effective resource utilization (time and cost) during the data collection tool evaluation.
Methods: Two hospices and two hospitals from the cities of Edmonton and Calgary participated in the revised Edmonton Staging System (rESS) project that used TELEform as its data collection tool. The evaluation was conducted over a period of 7 months. Data source such as e-mail and summary notes collected primarily through meetings and discussions with management, caregivers, researchers, and clerical staff was used to assess work practice and resource utilization. Descriptive statistics was employed to examine data quality and resource utilization.
Results: One hundred seventy eight patients were recruited during the 7-month trial. The costs and time involved in staff training, logistic support, and equipment startup were found to be reasonable. Data error and missing data were 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively. We initially encountered several problems with TELEform. The optical recognition tool could not easily pick up handwritten data. Furthermore, it was unforgiving in the sense that an error was not correctable by an eraser on the paper form. Data collectors found TELEform usage to be easy and simple because it retained the familiarity of paper-based recording.
Conclusion: It is important to develop an information infrastructure to support research project data collection for different health settings across health regions. The TELEform based on optical recognition was able to respond to the need for current information processing. We believe that TELEform is a useful tool in terms of work practice, data quality, and resource utilization.