A randomized trial of heart failure disease management in skilled nursing facilities (SNF Connect): Lessons learned

Clin Trials. 2017 Jun;14(3):308-313. doi: 10.1177/1740774517690529. Epub 2017 Jan 31.


Background/aims: Conducting clinical trials in skilled nursing facilities is particularly challenging. This manuscript describes facility and patient recruitment challenges and solutions for clinical research in skilled nursing facilities.

Methods: Lessons learned from the SNF Connect Trial, a randomized trial of a heart failure disease management versus usual care for patients with heart failure receiving post-acute care in skilled nursing facilities, are discussed. Description of the trial design and barriers to facility and patient recruitment along with regulatory issues are presented.

Results: The recruitment of Denver-metro skilled nursing facilities was facilitated by key stakeholders of the skilled nursing facilities community. However, there were still a number of barriers to facility recruitment including leadership turnover, varying policies regarding research, fear of litigation and of an increased workload. Engagement of facilities was facilitated by their strong interest in reducing hospital readmissions, marketing potential to hospitals, and heart failure management education for their staff. Recruitment of patients proved difficult and there were few facilitators. Identified patient recruitment challenges included patients being unaware of their heart failure diagnosis, patients overwhelmed with their illness and care, and frequently there was no available proxy for cognitively impaired patients. Flexibility in changing the recruitment approach and targeting skilled nursing facilities with higher rates of admissions helped to overcome some barriers.

Conclusion: Recruitment of skilled nursing facilities and patients in skilled nursing facilities for clinical trials is challenging. Strategies to attract both facilities and patients are warranted. These include aligning study goals with facility incentives and flexible recruitment protocols to work with patients in "transition crisis."

Keywords: Heart failure; clinical trial; skilled nursing facility.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Heart Failure / nursing*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection*
  • Patient Transfer / methods
  • Quality Improvement
  • Research Design*
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities / organization & administration*