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RDF19 Poster Details

RDF19 Poster Detail

Poster Title 
Optimising the role of digital technology in primary research


Recruitment of participants and their retention in randomised controlled trials is key for research efficiency. However, for many trials, recruiting and retaining participants that meet the eligible criteria is extremely challenging. Digital tools are increasingly being used to identify, recruit and retain participants so understanding the value of digital tools from different stakeholders and research participants is needed. A project team was formed involving UKCRC clinical trials units (Southampton and Bristol), NIHR CRNs (Wessex and West of England), NIHR South Central RDS, Wessex Institute and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.



The aim of the main study was to identify the benefits and characteristics of innovative digital recruitment and retention tools for more efficient conduct of randomised trials. Here we report on the findings of a qualitative study, which looked at the characteristics of digital tools and how they were perceived by various stakeholder groups (inclusive of research participant representatives).

A purposive sampling strategy was used to identify 16 participants from five stakeholder groups. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using an inductive approach (May-June 2018). A content and thematic analysis was carried out to explore the viewpoint of the stakeholders and the value and efficiency of digital technology.



Content analysis revealed that ‘barriers / challenges ‘, and ‘awareness of evidence’ were the most common areas for discussion. This was also true for the research participant representatives. Five themes were present across all groups: ‘security and transparency’, ‘inclusivity and engagement’, ‘human interaction’, ‘obstacles and risks’ and ‘potential benefits’. We noted some interesting similarities and differences between stakeholder and participant groups.



The five themes clearly demonstrate the usefulness of using digital technology in recruiting and retaining participants in primary research. The challenge, however, is using these existing tools without sufficient evidence as to how they compare to traditional recruitment techniques. This raises important questions around their potential value for future primary research.

  • BLATCH-JONES, Amanda (Senior Research Fellow:NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC))
  • RECIO-SAUCEDO, Alex (Research Fellow:NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC))
  • BULL, Abby (Assistant Research Manager:NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC))
  • WORSWICK, Louise (NHS England, South West House, Blackbrook Park Avenue, Taunton, UK)
NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC) University of Southampton