Challenges, facilitators and barriers to screening study participants in early disease stages-experience from the MACUSTAR study

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2021 Mar 17;21(1):54. doi: 10.1186/s12874-021-01243-8.


Background: Recruiting asymptomatic participants with early disease stages into studies is challenging and only little is known about facilitators and barriers to screening and recruitment of study participants. Thus we assessed factors associated with screening rates in the MACUSTAR study, a multi-centre, low-interventional cohort study of early stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Methods: Screening rates per clinical site and per week were compiled and applicable recruitment factors were assigned to respective time periods. A generalized linear mixed-effects model including the most relevant recruitment factors identified via in-depth interviews with study personnel was fitted to the screening data. Only participants with intermediate AMD were considered.

Results: A total of 766 individual screenings within 87 weeks were available for analysis. The mean screening rate was 0.6 ± 0.9 screenings per week among all sites. The participation at investigator teleconferences (relative risk increase 1.466, 95% CI [1.018-2.112]), public holidays (relative risk decrease 0.466, 95% CI [0.367-0.591]) and reaching 80% of the site's recruitment target (relative risk decrease 0.699, 95% CI [0.367-0.591]) were associated with the number of screenings at an individual site level.

Conclusions: Careful planning of screening activities is necessary when recruiting early disease stages in multi-centre observational or low-interventional studies. Conducting teleconferences with local investigators can increase screening rates. When planning recruitment, seasonal and saturation effects at clinical site level need to be taken into account.

Trial registration: NCT03349801 . Registered on 22 November 2017.

Keywords: Age-related macular degeneration; Cohort study; Early disease stages; Recruitment; Screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Macular Degeneration*
  • Research Personnel

Associated data


Grant support