IVRS vs IRT. What’s the difference?
When people talk about clinical technology, the abbreviations and acronyms can be overwhelming. Two terms in particular, frequently cause confusion. Both have similarities, yet are also different.
Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) imply the use of telephone only as the interface to the technology side of a clinical trial. IVRS came about as a way to bring computerized randomization and drug management functions to investigational sites before internet connected PC’s were commonplace. Since telephones are ubiquitous, sponsors had a way to control randomization and drug supply.
Interactive Response Technology (IRT), sometimes also called Interactive Web Response (IWR), uses the internet and a web browser instead. Prompts over the phone are replaced with prompts on a computer screen to interact with. IRT has become more popular since internet-connected computers, at investigational sites around the world, have become commonplace.
Both technologies have some clear advantages and disadvantages. IVRS has been around since the early days of computerized randomization and drug management. Many sites that have conducted trials are familiar with it. All sites have telephones and can access IVRS easily in most cases. IVRScan also be translated into local languages for users in various countries.
Main disadvantages of IVRS:
- Dependency on reliability of telecommunications vendors. For example, local toll free numbers can be changed without prior notification.
- Speed – IVRS is also fairly slow when compared to IRT, as the system must read out prompts, repeat entries and request confirmation inputs.
- Expense – IVRS can be expensive, as it requires specialized hardware to allow computers to interface with telephones and requires telecommunications expenditures to keep the phone lines open. This compounded with translations and recording costs for multiple prompts can be a real budget buster.
IRT has the advantage of speed and accuracy, despite occasional web browser compatibility issues and translation limitations. Prompts are displayed on screen so the user dictates the pace rather than a recorded voice announcing and repeating information. It’s also more accurate in regards to data entry as users can see what they are selecting on screen rather than pushing buttons on the telephone keypad to make selections. IRT does not require any specialized hardware or telecommunications vendors, anyone with an internet connection can access the system.
So to sum it up. IRT is definitely gaining ground over IVRS, as more sites and users incorporate the internet into their daily operations. However, IVRS still has merits and may be around for some time to come.