INTRODUCTION: Failure to incorporate key patient-reported outcome (PRO) content in trial protocols affects the quality and interpretability of the collected data, contributing to research waste. Our group developed evidence-based training specifically addressing PRO components of protocols. We aimed to assess whether 2-day educational workshops improved the PRO completeness of protocols against consensus-based minimum standards provided in the SPIRIT-PRO Extension in 2018.
METHOD: Annual workshops were conducted 2011-2017. Participants were investigators/trialists from cancer clinical trials groups. Although developed before 2018, workshops covered 15/16 SPIRIT-PRO items. Participant feedback immediately post-workshop and, retrospectively, in November 2017 was summarised descriptively. Protocols were evaluated against SPIRIT-PRO by two independent raters for workshop protocols (developed post-workshop by participants) and control protocols (contemporaneous non-workshop protocols). SPIRIT-PRO items were assessed for completeness (0 = not addressed, 10 = fully addressed). Mann-Whitney U tests assessed whether workshop protocols scored higher than controls by item and overall.
RESULTS: Participants (n = 107) evaluated the workshop positively. In 2017, 16/41 survey responders (39%) reported never applying in practice; barriers included role restrictions (14/41, 34%) and lack of time (5/41, 12%). SPIRIT-PRO overall scores did not differ between workshop (n = 13, median = 3.81/10, interquartile range = 3.24) and control protocols (n = 9, 3.51/10 (2.14)), (p = 0.35). Workshop protocols scored higher than controls on two items: 'specify PRO concepts/domains' (p = 0.05); 'methods for handling missing data' (p = 0.044).
CONCLUSION: Although participants were highly satisfied with these workshops, the completeness of PRO protocol content generally did not improve. Additional knowledge translation efforts are needed to assist protocol writers address SPIRIT-PRO guidance and avoid research waste that may eventuate from sub-optimal PRO protocol content.