BACKGROUND: Patient recruitment to clinical research is often challenging and, when inadequate, can result in delayed or underpowered studies. Recruitment problems were experienced during a study of women with heavy menstrual bleeding in general practice (the MIRA trial). Although efforts were made to reduce the burden of the study for those participating, patient recruitment was still an issue.
AIM: To identify the barriers and facilitators associated with patient recruitment to clinical trials, as experienced by GPs.
DESIGN & SETTING: A qualitative study was performed in Dutch general practice, using semi-structured interviews.
METHOD: GPs participating in the MIRA trial were selected by purposive sampling and interviewed until saturation was reached. Three independent researchers performed data coding and thematic analysis. Consensus on the identified themes was reached by discussion among the researchers.
RESULTS: Sixteen GPs were interviewed. The following factors were noted to influence recruitment: the incidence of the disease under study; awareness of the study; attitude towards scientific research; perceived burden for the patient; usual care by the GP; time investment; characteristics of the GP and their practice; and patient experience of research participation.
CONCLUSION: The identified barriers and facilitators associated with patient recruitment highlight the areas in which future studies can be improved. Indeed, benefits could be gained by simply ensuring that study procedures are clear, by requiring limited (time) investment from the GP, and by investing in personal communication and reminders to keep the GP motivated and interested. Placing greater importance on scientific research during the GP training programme could also serve as a means to motivate future GPs to integrate scientific research in their clinical practice.