Background: While some research has been conducted examining recruitment methods to engage physicians and practices in primary care research, further research is needed on recruitment methodology as it remains a recurrent challenge and plays a crucial role in primary care research. This paper reviews recruitment strategies, common challenges, and innovative practices from five recent primary care health services research studies in Ontario, Canada.
Methods: We used mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to gather data from investigators and/or project staff from five research teams. Team members were interviewed and asked to fill out a brief survey on recruitment methods, results, and challenges encountered during a recent or ongoing project involving primary care practices or physicians. Data analysis included qualitative analysis of interview notes and descriptive statistics generated for each study.
Results: Recruitment rates varied markedly across the projects despite similar initial strategies. Common challenges and creative solutions were reported by many of the research teams, including building a sampling frame, developing front-office rapport, adapting recruitment strategies, promoting buy-in and interest in the research question, and training a staff recruiter.
Conclusions: Investigators must continue to find effective ways of reaching and involving diverse and representative samples of primary care providers and practices by building personal connections with, and buy-in from, potential participants. Flexible recruitment strategies and an understanding of the needs and interests of potential participants may also facilitate recruitment.