Skip to main content

Table 3 Overview of recruitment strategies applied in this trial and rating of their usefulness in pediatric psychopharmacological trials

From: “Include me if you can”—reasons for low enrollment of pediatric patients in a psychopharmacological trial

Recruitment strategy Pros Cons General considerations and recommendations Rating of usefulness in pediatric psychopharmacological trialsa
Contacting local office- or hospital-based psychiatrists/psychotherapists/pediatricians - Inexpensive
- Targeted
- Can be difficult when many individual offices need to be contacted or visited in person
- Trial needs to be carefully explained to colleague/s, therefore complex and time-consuming
- If trial potentially interferes with routine care, support by colleague/s is unlikely
- Some physicians concerned to ‘lose patient’ to study site after study closure
- Personal contact to colleague/s and collaboration needs to be established and is crucial for effective recruitment
- Provide colleague/s with flyers/brochures for distribution to their patients
- Aspects of the trial design and integration of participation into regular treatment should be discussed
- Easy access and contact to trial team essential (e.g., “hotline”)
- Concerns should be taken into serious consideration early on, be discussed openly
+ + +
Contacting self-help/support groups - Highly targeted
- Useful in diseases with low prevalence
- Established network of families interested in progress of research and therapies
- Time consuming - Personal contact recommended to establish collaboration
- Giving presentations, e.g., to groups of parents, about respective disorder, diagnosis and treatment, the current trial and relevant background information should be considered
+ + +
Oral presentations at internal meetings of the department/study site - Informative
- Targeted
- Time consuming
- Short information half-life due to single event character
- Useful to “get the clinical team on board” (at the own institution) and to facilitate collaboration between clinical care and study/research group
- Easy access and contact to trial team essential (e.g., “hotline”)
+ + +
Participation in internal regular meetings of clinical team - Minimizes risk of missing potential participants
- Strengthens established collaboration with clinical team
- Time consuming - Larger meetings with concise discussion of many patients should be preferred (e.g., admission/discharge planning)
- Meetings should be attended regularly (e.g., weekly) and on a long-term basis
+ + +
Keeping a prescreening list - Easy
- Minimizes risk of losing track of potential participants
- Recruitment efforts are documented
- Time-consuming - Local data protection regulations and ethical guidelines must be followed (e.g., by pseudonymization of personal data) + + +
Online and social media ads - Easy
- Cost-free when untargeted
- Many competing ads
- Costly when targeting specific populations
- Post on social media of institution/hospital should be considered
- Can easily be repeated on a regular basis
+ +
Information on website of department/hospital/research group - Easy
- Inexpensive
- Targeted
- Needs to be actively accessed (in contrast to ads) - Information and flyers should be easily visible and accessible for families
- Also useful for office-based physicians and other researcher interested in ongoing trials
+ +
Oral presentations at external meetings/conferences - Informative
- Raises disease awareness
- Time consuming
- Untargeted
- Short information half-life due to single event character
- Regional and disorder-specific meetings should be preferred
- Aspects of the trial design and integration of participation into regular treatment should be discussed
- Easy access and contact to trial team essential (e.g., “hotline”)
+ +
Distribution of printed flyers/brochures in community settings/to the general public - Easy
- Inexpensive
- Raises disease awareness
- Untargeted - Should be considered when recruiting patients with high prevalence disorders or healthy controls
- Recommended to identify highly frequented settings for the target population beforehand
+
Newspaper ads/brief articles - Mostly easy
- Raises disease awareness
- Many competing ads
- Untargeted
- Can be costly
- Potentially, ERB approval needed
- At times, content wise mutually exclusive opinions/requests from study management, institutional communication, journal editorial office, ERB
- Should be considered when recruiting patients with high prevalence disorders or healthy controls
- Staff should be prepared to face those ‘hurdles’, learn from other sites involved in the trial, be flexible in wording texts.
+
Trial website/blog - Informative
- Raises disease awareness
- Time and/or cost consuming
- Needs to be advertised/made public
- Links to this content should be placed in ads as well as social media and on website of institution/hospital +
Contacting schools - Informative
- Raises disease awareness
- Time consuming
- Untargeted
- Local regulations and experiences with school authorities vary widely
- Can be considered when school problems or disorders with relatively high prevalence (e.g., ADHD) are a focus of the trial or healthy control subjects are part of the trial design
+
  1. aRating based on long-term experience of the authors in running clinical pediatric psychopharmacology trials; relative impact on recruitment: + + + high, + + medium, + low