Recruiting sites and participants
No RCT can succeed without participating sites and patients. Successful recruitment and retention is a key reason for study success. Conversely, falling short of recruitment goals results in an underpowered study, or even failure to complete the study at all.
Examples of ways to improve recruitment of sites and patients:
1. Have a plan
A Recruitment and Retention plan should be part of the study protocol or can be a separate document.
2. Engagement with site leaders during the study design phase.
Helps to determine if your colleagues at other sites are willing to participate at all. It may allow you to adjust the design of the study to make it more attractive to participants and sites. Consider a survey of nephrologists in your region to assess interest in the topic and create excitement around the study.
3. Simplify the study design.
Ensure that all study visits, tests and procedures are absolutely necessary so that the burden on sites and on participants is minimised. Consider the use of phone or email to follow up participants.
4. Provide participant information in plain language
Avoid jargon that may confuse patients and discourage participation in your study
5. Help participants to be compliant
Provide calenders of scheduled visits and send reminders. Track compliance with medication use at study visits
6. Patient and consumer engagement
A patient perspective on the study may identify design changes that make participation more likely. It can help to align patient and researcher goals such that patients are more interested in participating. Consider use of social media to promote the study
7. Reimbursement for participating sites.
Understand the burden that participating will place on a site and offer reasonable compensation, which typically takes the form of a payment from the study budget to the site institution research fund. Funding may be provided to the site per participant recruited, and may be split into a payment for recruitment and an additional sum for participants that complete the study.
8. Other incentives.
Monetary or non-monetary incentives or reimbursement for participants can encourage participation. This may be as simple as providing catered food or ensuring that participant travel to study visits is subsidised.
9. Conduct a pilot study
This allows the testing of study procedures. Eligibilty criteria and follow up plans can be revised in light of the pilot study experience.
10. Engage with other health care staff
Inform other clinicians, such as other specialists or general practitioners, that their patient has been enrolled. Provide information about the study to local nursing staff and other doctors. This will help them to recognise potential participants and, if educational material is included, can also be a tangible benefit for the site.
11. Maintain contact with study participants
Social media may be useful
In reality, there is no specific approach that will be effective in all trials. Rather, a constellation of methods is likely to be required.
There are many online resources available.