Digital Pen and Paper technology developed by Sweden’s Anoto Group can enhance significantly the speed and accuracy of capturing and documenting data from clinical trials, its inventor claims.

The pen and paper system automatically converts handwritten notes on clinical trial forms into keystrokes, skirting the time-consuming step of manual data entry into information technology systems for further processing and analysis.

Anoto’s digital pen looks like a ballpoint pen but a tiny infrared camera at its tip tracks the pen’s movements relative to a grey dot pattern printed on the clinical trial form, recording and storing whatever is written.

Once the investigator has finished collecting the data, the digital pen is placed in a USB docking station to synchronise with back-end information technology systems, Anoto explained. Alternatively, the data can be transmitted through a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone.

The biggest advantage of the technology is that the handwritten information can be digitised without any changes to existing work routines, and with a high level of data accuracy, Anoto said.

Investigators continue to fill in their forms with a pen, retaining the advantages of a paper-based system such as ease of use, archiving, and the retention of original content needed for legal purposes. Nor do users require any extra training for tablet PCs, personal digital assistants (PDAs) or scanners.

That means contract research organisations can save time and money as well as avoiding manual data-entry errors, Anoto pointed out. “Studies have shown that digital data capture using Digital Pen and Paper is superior to alternative solutions such as laptops, PDAs or tablet PCs,” the group asserted. “Data-entry error rates are close to zero, all while realising time savings of up to 60 per cent.”