Primary Care Research Is Hard to Do During COVID-19: Challenges and Solutions

Ann Fam Med. 2022 Nov-Dec;20(6):568-572. doi: 10.1370/afm.2889.


Conducting research in primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic is hard, due to baseline stresses on primary care, which have been compounded by the pandemic. We acknowledge and validate primary care researchers' frustrations. Using our experience on over 15 individual projects during the pandemic we identify 3 key challenges to conducting primary care research: (1) practice delivery trickle-down effects, (2) limited/changing resources and procedures for research, and (3) a generally tense milieu in US society during the pandemic. We present strategies, informed by a set of questions, to help researchers decide how to address these challenges observed during our studies. In order to overcome and grow from these challenging times we encourage normalization and self-compassion, and encourage researchers and funders to embrace pragmatic and adaptive research designs as the circumstances with COVID-19 evolve over time.

Keywords: COVID-19; primary health care; research personnel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Primary Health Care
  • Self-Compassion