Optimising primary care research participation: a comparison of three recruitment methods in data-sharing studies

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Lord, P ; Willis, T ; Carder, P ; West, R ; Foy, RC (2016)
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

Background: Recruitment of representative samples in primary care research is essential to ensure high-quality, generalisable results. This is particularly important for research using routinely recorded patient data to examine the delivery of care. Yet little is known about how different recruitment strategies influence the characteristics of the practices included in research. We describe three approaches for recruiting practices to data sharing studies, examining differences in recruitment levels and practice representativeness. Method: We examined three studies that included varying populations of practices from West Yorkshire, UK. All used anonymised patient data to explore aspects of clinical practice. Recruitment strategies were ‘opt-in’, ‘mixed opt-in and opt-out’, and ‘opt-out’. We compared aggregated practice data between recruited and not-recruited practices for practice list size, deprivation, chronic disease management, patient experience and rates of unplanned hospital admission. Results: The opt-out strategy had the highest recruitment (80%), followed by mixed (70%), and opt-in (58%). Practices opting-in were larger (median 7153 vs. 4722 patients, p=0.03) than practices that declined to opt-in. Practices recruited by mixed approach were larger (median 7091 vs. 5857 patients, p=0.04) and had differences in the clinical quality measure (58.4% vs 53.9% of diabetic patients with HbA1c <=59mmol/mol, p<0.01). We found no differences between practices recruited and not-recruited using the opt-out strategy for any demographic or quality-of-care measures. Conclusion: Opt-out recruitment appears to be a relatively efficient approach to ensuring participation of typical general practices. Researchers should, with appropriate ethical safeguards, consider opt-out recruitment of practices for studies involving anonymised patient data sharing.
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