Background: Recruitment of community primary care practices for studies to improve health service delivery is important to many health care organizations. Prior studies have focused on individual physician recruitment or academic settings.
Methods: This descriptive study evaluated the efficiency and utility of three different recruitment methods to encourage community practice participation in a preventive services research trial. Primary care practices in four midwestern states were recruited using different sources for initial mailings (physician lists, practice lists, and a managed care organization's primary care network) and different recruiting methods. Outcome measures included response rates, participation rates, and comparative costs of each method.
Results: Of the 86 eligible practices contacted, 52 (60%) consented to participate. Mailing to individual physicians was the most cumbersome and expensive method and had the lowest response rate. Initial contacts with practice medical directors increased the participation rate substantially, and practice recruitment meetings improved both study participation and practice-project communication.
Conclusions: Experience with these three methods suggests that the most efficient way to recruit practices for participation in a preventive services research trial involves targeted mailings and phone calls to medical directors, followed by on-site practice meetings.