Background: Videoconferencing (VC) systems are increasingly recognized as a viable means of enhancing communication across different geographic regions and have been used within multiple settings. Until now, despite increased use and diverse applications, VC has received relatively little attention as a data collection tool in qualitative research. The literature on preferred data collection methods for sensitive topics offers different perspectives, with no clear consensus on the best approach for collecting sensitive data. We sought to determine if VC is a feasible tool for eliciting sexual history from participants in a vaginal microbicide study.
Subjects and methods: Fifty-nine young women who participated in a Phase 1 microbicide safety and acceptability study at three sites (Tampa, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; and San Juan, Puerto Rico) were interviewed through VC from New York City. During the third VC session, participants gave feedback on their experience using the method.
Results: Most of the participants reported that they preferred VC to phone-only interviews. Participants noted that because of the sensitive nature of the interviews, geographical distance from the interviewer facilitated disclosure. Despite some technical problems, such as the time delay in video transmission and occasional loss of connection, participants expressed a high degree of satisfaction with using VC.
Conclusions: VC seems to be a feasible alternative form of conducting in-depth interviews on sensitive topics. VC enables data collection from geographically dispersed research participants without the cost and time burden of traveling to sites or developing local interviewer capabilities when the number of interviews is small.