Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2017 Feb 20;17(1):30.
doi: 10.1186/s12874-017-0310-z.

Participant Retention Practices in Longitudinal Clinical Research Studies With High Retention Rates

Free PMC article

Participant Retention Practices in Longitudinal Clinical Research Studies With High Retention Rates

Martha Abshire et al. BMC Med Res Methodol. .
Free PMC article


Background: There is a need for improving cohort retention in longitudinal studies. Our objective was to identify cohort retention strategies and implementation approaches used in studies with high retention rates.

Methods: Longitudinal studies with ≥200 participants, ≥80% retention rates over ≥1 year of follow-up were queried from an Institutional Review Board database at a large research-intensive U.S. university; additional studies were identified through networking. Nineteen (86%) of 22 eligible studies agreed to participate. Through in-depth semi-structured interviews, participants provided retention strategies based on themes identified from previous literature reviews. Synthesis of data was completed by a multidisciplinary team.

Results: The most commonly used retention strategies were: study reminders, study visit characteristics, emphasizing study benefits, and contact/scheduling strategies. The research teams were well-functioning, organized, and persistent. Additionally, teams tailored their strategies to their participants, often adapting and innovating their approaches.

Conclusions: These studies included specialized and persistent teams and utilized tailored strategies specific to their cohort and individual participants. Studies' written protocols and published manuscripts often did not reflect the varied strategies employed and adapted through the duration of study. Appropriate retention strategy use requires cultural sensitivity and more research is needed to identify how strategy use varies globally.

Keywords: Cohort; Follow-up studies; Longitudinal; Methods; Patient dropouts; Research design/Standards; Retention strategies.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 24 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Fewtrell MS, Kennedy K, Singhal A, Martin RM, Ness A, Hadders-Algra M, et al. How much loss to follow-up is acceptable in long-term randomised trials and prospective studies? Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(6):458–61. doi: 10.1136/adc.2007.127316. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Siddiqi AE, Sikorskii A, Given CW, Given B. Early participant attrition from clinical trials: role of trial design and logistics. Clin Trials. 2008;5(4):328–35. doi: 10.1177/1740774508094406. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Gupta A, Calfas KJ, Marshall SJ, Robinson TN, Rock CL, Huang JS, et al. Clinical trial management of participant recruitment, enrollment, engagement, and retention in the SMART study using a Marketing and Information Technology (MARKIT) model. Contemp Clin Trials. 2015;42:185–95. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2015.04.002. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Robinson KA, Dinglas VD, Sukrithan V, Yalamanchili R, Mendez-Tellez PA, Dennison-Himmelfarb CR, et al. Updated systematic review identifies substantial number of retention strategies: using more strategies retains more study participants. J Clin Epidemiol. 2015;68(12):1481–7. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2015.04.013. - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Robinson KA, Dennison CR, Wayman DM, Pronovost PJ, Needham DM. Systematic review identifies number of strategies important for retaining study participants. J Clin Epidemiol. 2007;60(8):757–65. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2006.11.023. - DOI - PMC - PubMed

Publication types