Testing the Effectiveness of an Animated Decision Aid to Improve Recruitment of Control Participants in a Case-Control Study: Web-Based Experiment

J Med Internet Res. 2022 Aug 26;24(8):e40015. doi: 10.2196/40015.


Background: Participation in case-control studies is crucial in epidemiological research. The self-sampling bias, low response rate, and poor recruitment of population representative controls are often reported as limitations of case-control studies with limited strategies to improve participation. With greater use of web-based methods in health research, there is a further need to understand the effectiveness of different tools to enhance informed decision-making and willingness to take part in research.

Objective: This study tests whether the inclusion of an animated decision aid in the recruitment page of a study website can increase participants' intentions to volunteer as controls.

Methods: A total of 1425 women were included in a web-based experiment and randomized to one of two experimental conditions: one in which they were exposed to a simulated website that included the animation (animation; n=693, 48.6%), and one in which they were exposed to the simulated website without the animation (control; n=732, 51.4%). The simulated website was adapted from a real website for a case-control study, which invites people to consider taking part in a study that investigates differences in purchasing behaviors between women with and without ovarian cancer and share their loyalty card data collected through 2 high street retailers with the researchers. After exposure to the experimental manipulation, participants were asked to state (1) their intention to take part in the case-control study, (2) whether they would be willing to share their loyalty card for research, and (3) their willingness to be redirected to the real website after completing the survey. Data were assessed using ordinal and binary logistic regression, reported in percentages (%), adjusted odds ratio (AOR), and 95% confidence intervals.

Results: Including the animation in the simulated website did not increase intentions to participate in the study (AOR 1.09; 95% CI 0.88-1.35) or willingness to visit the real study website after the survey (control 50.5% vs animation 52.6%, AOR 1.08; 95% CI 0.85-1.37). The animation, however, increased the participants' intentions to share the data from their loyalty cards for research in general (control 17.9% vs animation 26%; AOR 1.64; 95% CI 1.23-2.18).

Conclusions: While the results of this study indicate that the animated decision aid did not lead to greater intention to take part in our web-based case-control study, they show that they can be effective in increasing people's willingness to share sensitive data for health research.

Keywords: animation; case-control; data; decision; effectiveness; epidemiology; experiment; health research; online; online experiment; recruitment; research; research participation; survey; volunteer; willingness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Internet
  • Surveys and Questionnaires