clinical worker enters chart information into edc or cdms software on tablet and laptop

CDMS vs EDC: What’s Right for Your Clinical Trial?

Contents: CDMS Definition | EDC Definition | CDMS vs EDC | Which System Do You Need?


What Is a CDMS?

A Clinical Data Management System is a software tool used to manage data collected during the course of clinical trials. This system plays a crucial role in ensuring the accuracy, reliability, and integrity of clinical trial and study data as it is used in downstream analysis and reporting. 

The primary functions of a CDMS include:

  • Data Collection: Facilitating the electronic or manual entry of trial data into a centralized system.
  • Data Validation: Ensuring that the data is accurate and complete through automated checks and manual verification processes.
  • Data Cleaning: Identifying and correcting errors or discrepancies in the data to maintain quality standards.
  • Data Integration: Combining data from various sources to provide a comprehensive view of clinical trial data.
  • Data Storage and Retrieval: Securely storing data and making it easily accessible for analysis and reporting.

Why Use a CDMS?

By employing a clinical data management system, clinical trial sponsors and researchers can enhance the quality of their data, streamline the data management process, prepare data for analysis and ensure compliance with regulatory standards and guidelines.

Who Uses a CDMS?

The primary users of CDMS software encompass various job roles within the healthcare and life sciences sectors:

  • Clinical Data Managers: These professionals are responsible for overseeing the data collected during clinical trials, ensuring it is accurate, complete, and verifiable.
  • Biostatisticians: They use the data managed within a CDMS to analyze clinical trial results, providing critical insights that influence decisions on drug development and other medical interventions.
  • Clinical Researchers and Investigators: Researchers rely on CDMS to ensure that the data they collect is managed efficiently and meets regulatory standards, which is essential for the validity of their studies.
  • Regulatory Affairs Specialists: These specialists use CDMS to prepare and review documentation for regulatory submissions, ensuring compliance with industry regulations.
  • Quality Assurance (QA) Professionals: QA professionals use CDMS to audit clinical data and processes, ensuring adherence to quality standards.


What Is an EDC?

An Electronic Data Capture (EDC) system is a software platform used in clinical research to collect and store data obtained from clinical trials. The EDC system replaces traditional paper-based data collection with an electronic form that streamlines the data capture process and enhances data accuracy and reliability.

Key features and functions of an EDC system include:

  • Data Entry: Provides a user-friendly interface for entering clinical trial data directly at the site of patient interactions, which can then be immediately validated.
  • Data Validation: Includes built-in checks to ensure that the data entered is complete, consistent, and adheres to predefined rules, minimizing errors.
  • Query Management: Automatically generates queries for data that appear inconsistent or incomplete, allowing clinical monitors and site coordinators to address discrepancies quickly.
  • Real-time Access: Enables centralized and real-time access to data for study monitors and researchers, facilitating ongoing oversight and management of the clinical trial.
  • Compliance and Security: Ensures data security, audit trails, and compliance with regulatory standards such as FDA 21 CFR Part 11, which governs the use of electronic records and electronic signatures.

Why Use an EDC?

EDC systems are crucial for modern clinical trials, improving the efficiency of data collection, reducing the time to capture data, and enhancing the overall quality of the research data, which is vital for regulatory submissions and product approvals.

Who Uses EDCs?

Emphasizing its importance in real-time data collection and management in clinical trials, the primary users of an Electronic Data Capture (EDC) system encompass various job roles within the healthcare and life sciences sectors:

  • Clinical Trial Coordinators: These individuals use EDC systems to directly enter and manage patient data during clinical trials, ensuring timely and accurate data collection.
  • Clinical Investigators: Medical professionals who conduct the trials rely on EDC systems to capture precise patient data, facilitating efficient decision-making and research progress.
  • Data Entry Personnel: Often located at clinical sites, these staff members are responsible for entering data into the EDC system, playing a critical role in the data capture process.
  • Clinical Data Managers: Although they also use CDMS, data managers utilize EDC systems for initial data collection and preliminary data management before it is further processed and analyzed.
  • Clinical Monitors (CRAs): Clinical Research Associates monitor the conduct of clinical trials and use EDC systems to review data entries, check for compliance, and ensure the integrity of the data collected.
  • Biostatisticians: They access data collected via EDC systems to perform initial analyses and interpret the effectiveness and safety of a treatment or intervention during the trial phases.


Differences and Similarities: CDMS vs EDC

While Clinical Data Management Systems (CDMS) and Electronic Data Capture (EDC) systems share many similarities in their roles in clinical trials, there are distinct differences between the two, mainly related to their scope of functionality and primary focus. In general, a CDMS is broader in scope than an EDC. 

  • Primary Function:
    • EDC: Primarily focused on the direct capture of data in electronic form at the point of origin (e.g., during patient visits at clinical sites). EDC systems are typically used to enter, validate, and manage data in real-time during the clinical trial.
    • CDMS: While EDC can be a component of CDMS software, the latter has a broader scope, encompassing more comprehensive data management tasks. CDMS includes tools for data cleaning, coding, database locking, and more extensive quality control processes beyond initial data capture.
  • Data Integration and Processing:
    • EDC: Mainly handle data collection and initial validation. They are less focused on the later stages of data processing.
    • CDMS: Provides extensive functionalities for integrating data from multiple sources (including EDC), handling complex queries, data cleaning, and ensuring database readiness for statistical analysis.
  • Deployment and Access:
    • EDC: Primarily accessed online by clinical site staff to enter data directly and manage patient interactions.
    • CDMS: Used by a broader range of personnel, including data managers and monitors who may access the system at various points in the data management process.
  • Scope of Data Management:
    • EDC: Generally more focused on front-end data capture and are often seen as a part of a larger data management strategy.
    • CDMS: Encompasses a wider range of clinical data management and reporting activities, including extensive backend data manipulation and preparation for analysis.

In general, CDMS encompass a greater range of data management for clinical research, with EDC focusing on front-end data capture. Due to being built for similar applications, their commonalities include broad security and quality management for the data collected, particularly:

  • Data handling
  • Quality control
  • Regulatory adherence
  • Security measures and protocols
  • Audit trails
  • Multi-site management


CDMS vs EDC: Which System Fits Your Trial?

While deciding whether an EDC is sufficient or if a study or trial requires the greater data management scope of a CDMS, investigators must evaluate their data requirements to select the system that best aligns with their project goals. In comparing CDMS vs EDC, each system offers unique benefits, and the choice will significantly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of data management in clinical trials.

Examine the following key factors:

Data Types and Volume

Assess the complexity and volume of data expected. High complexity and larger volumes might require the robust data management of a CDMS, whereas simpler, direct data collection processes are efficiently handled by EDC.

Workflow and Process Management

Consider if the study demands extensive data cleaning, integration, and post-entry processing, which are strengths of CDMS.

Compliance and Quality Control Requirements

Evaluate the need for stringent compliance with regulatory standards and the level of audit trails and data validation required. Both systems support compliance, but CDMS may offer more in-depth tools for managing complex regulatory requirements.

Integration with Existing Systems

Examine how well the new system needs to integrate with other data systems and technologies used in the clinical trials. CDMS is typically better equipped for handling data from multiple sources and integrating with other complex systems.

Scalability with CDMS vs EDC

Consider the future growth of your clinical research in terms of more sites, more data, or more complex analyses. CDMS generally offers more scalability for complex and growing research environments.



LabKey CDMS software offers a data management solution for multisite clinical trials, addressing the critical challenges of organizing disparate data, fragmented data views and cumbersome manual reporting processes. Discover how LabKey CDMS can transform your clinical trial management by offering a unified, efficient, and secure platform for all your data management needs.

Start a conversation with one of our CDMS product specialists.

Learn more about Clinical Data Management Systems:

Clinical Data Management & Reporting for Research

Learn more

6 Trends in Clinical Database Software that Researchers Need to Know

Learn more

Important Software Tools for Clinical Study Data Management

Learn more