Providing trial results to participants in phase III pragmatic effectiveness RCTs: a scoping review

Hanne Bruhn, Elle-Jay Cowan, Marion K Campbell, Lynda Constable, Seonaidh Cotton, Vikki Entwistle, Rosemary Humphreys, Karen Innes, Sandra Jayacodi, Peter Knapp, Annabelle South, Katie Gillies

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: There is an ethical imperative to offer the results of trials to those who participated. Existing research highlights that less than a third of trials do so, despite the desire of participants to receive the results of the trials they participated in. This scoping review aimed to identify, collate, and describe the available evidence relating to any aspect of disseminating trial results to participants.

METHODS: A scoping review was conducted employing a search of key databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) from January 2008 to August 2019) to identify studies that had explored any aspect of disseminating results to trial participants. The search strategy was based on that of a linked existing review. The evidence identified describes the characteristics of included studies using narrative description informed by analysis of relevant data using descriptive statistics.

RESULTS: Thirty-three eligible studies, including 12,700 participants (which included patients, health care professionals, trial teams), were identified and included. Reporting of participant characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity) across the studies was poor. The majority of studies investigated dissemination of aggregate trial results. The most frequently reported mode of disseminating of results was postal. Overall, the results report that participants evaluated receipt of trial results positively, with reported benefits including improved communication, demonstration of appreciation, improved retention, and engagement in future research. However, there were also some concerns about how well the dissemination was resourced and done, worries about emotional effects on participants especially when reporting unfavourable results, and frustration about the delay between the end of the trial and receipt of results.

CONCLUSIONS: This scoping review has highlighted that few high-quality evaluative studies have been conducted that can provide evidence on the best ways to deliver results to trial participants. There have been relatively few qualitative studies that explore perspectives from diverse populations, and those that have been conducted are limited to a handful of clinical areas. The learning from these studies can be used as a platform for further research and to consider some core guiding principles of the opportunities and challenges when disseminating trial results to those who participated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number361
Number of pages32
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s). 2021


  • Anxiety
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research

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