Background RHInnO Ethics is a cloud-based online ethics review system that enables Reseach Ethics Committees (RECs) to receive, review and approve applications online. Over the last five years, RHInnO Ethics has been installed in 40 RECs that operate in 12 African countries.
Methods Pharma Ethics (South Africa), Strathmore University (Kenya) and Uganda Virus Research Institute-UVRI (Uganda) started using RHInnO Ethics in 2014, 2015 and 2017 respectively. Although the platform is currently installed in 40 RECs in Africa, only 1 systematic evaluation has been done to objectively assess its impact on the quality and efficiency of ethics review. Here, we present the experiences of using RHInnO Ethics from three RECs situated in East Africa (2 RECs) and South Africa (1 REC).
Results Strathmore University started using the online ethics review system since the beginning of its operation, while Pharma Ethics and UVRI transitioned from a manual to an electronic system. Benefits associated with the use of the platform include improved efficiency in communication among key players of the ethics review processes, improved quality of review through standardisation and harmonisation of ethics review procedures, easy management of information, increased submissions and improved turnaround time. The progress of review can also be tracked any time by all users. Challenges include change management from the manual to the online system, difficulties in learning new versions of the system and training new reviewers not conversant with the system, interruption of internet access and limited ability to personalise the platform.
Conclusion There is a need to get buy-in from regulatory authorities to enforce the adaption of the system to all RECs in order to make research coordination in Africa easier. RHInnO Ethics has been shown to improve efficiency and quality of reviews. However, the transition to and full adoption of the online system continues to be slow. To accelerate and scale up the adoption of RHInnO Ethics, there is a need for developers, RECs and sponsors of RECs to engage with REC regulatory authorities, and identify responsive models of financing and funding RECs in order to increase efficiency and quality of ethics review in sub-Saharan Africa.
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