Background: Classical monitoring approaches rely on extensive on-site visits and source data verification. These activities are associated with high cost and a limited contribution to data quality. Central statistical monitoring is of particular interest to address these shortcomings.
Purpose: This article outlines the principles of central statistical monitoring and the challenges of implementing it in actual trials.
Methods: A statistical approach to central monitoring is based on a large number of statistical tests performed on all variables collected in the database, in order to identify centers that differ from the others. The tests generate a high-dimensional matrix of p-values, which can be analyzed by statistical methods and bioinformatic tools to identify extreme centers.
Results: Results from actual trials are provided to illustrate typical findings that can be expected from a central statistical monitoring approach, which detects abnormal patterns that were not (or could not have been) detected by on-site monitoring.
Limitations: Central statistical monitoring can only address problems present in the data. Important aspects of trial conduct such as a lack of informed consent documentation, for instance, require other approaches. The results provided here are empirical examples from a limited number of studies.
Conclusion: Central statistical monitoring can both optimize on-site monitoring and improve data quality and as such provides a cost-effective way of meeting regulatory requirements for clinical trials.