Evaluation of electronic recruitment efforts of primary care providers as research subjects during the COVID-19 pandemic

BMC Prim Care. 2022 Apr 28;23(1):95. doi: 10.1186/s12875-022-01705-y.


Background: Recruiting healthcare providers as research subjects often rely on in-person recruitment strategies. Little is known about recruiting provider participants via electronic recruitment methods. In this study, conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, we describe and evaluate a primarily electronic approach to recruiting primary care providers (PCPs) as subjects in a pragmatic randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a decision support intervention.

Methods: We adapted an existing framework for healthcare provider research recruitment, employing an electronic consent form and a mix of brief synchronous video presentations, email, and phone calls to recruit PCPs into the RCT. To evaluate the success of each electronic strategy, we estimated the number of consented PCPs associated with each strategy, the number of days to recruit each PCP and recruitment costs.

Results: We recruited 45 of 63 eligible PCPs practicing at ten primary care clinic locations over 55 days. On average, it took 17 business days to recruit a PCP (range 0-48) and required three attempts (range 1-7). Email communication from the clinic leaders led to the most successful recruitments, followed by brief synchronous video presentations at regularly scheduled clinic meetings. We spent approximately $89 per recruited PCP. We faced challenges of low email responsiveness and limited opportunities to forge relationships.

Conclusion: PCPs can be efficiently recruited at low costs as research subjects using primarily electronic communications, even during a time of high workload and stress. Electronic peer leader outreach and synchronous video presentations may be particularly useful recruitment strategies.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov , NCT04295135 . Registered 04 March 2020.

Keywords: Clinical decision support; Primary care provider; Randomized clinical trial; Recruitment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Electronics
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection
  • Primary Health Care
  • Research Subjects

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04295135