Systematic techniques for assisting recruitment to trials (START): study protocol for embedded, randomized controlled trials

Jo Rick, Jonathan Graffy, Peter Knapp, Nicola Small, David J Collier, Sandra Eldridge, Anne Kennedy, Chris Salisbury, Shaun Treweek, David Torgerson, Paul Wallace, Vichithranie Madurasinghe, Adwoa Hughes-Morley, Peter Bower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Randomized controlled trials play a central role in evidence-based practice, but recruitment of participants, and retention of them once in the trial, is challenging. Moreover, there is a dearth of evidence that research teams can use to inform the development of their recruitment and retention strategies. As with other healthcare initiatives, the fairest test of the effectiveness of a recruitment strategy is a trial comparing alternatives, which for recruitment would mean embedding a recruitment trial within an ongoing host trial. Systematic reviews indicate that such studies are rare. Embedded trials are largely delivered in an ad hoc way, with interventions almost always developed in isolation and tested in the context of a single host trial, limiting their ability to contribute to a body of evidence with regard to a single recruitment intervention and to researchers working in different contexts.

METHODS/DESIGN: The Systematic Techniques for Assisting Recruitment to Trials (START) program is funded by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council (MRC) Methodology Research Programme to support the routine adoption of embedded trials to test standardized recruitment interventions across ongoing host trials. To achieve this aim, the program involves three interrelated work packages: (1) methodology - to develop guidelines for the design, analysis and reporting of embedded recruitment studies; (2) interventions - to develop effective and useful recruitment interventions; and (3) implementation - to recruit host trials and test interventions through embedded studies.

DISCUSSION: Successful completion of the START program will provide a model for a platform for the wider trials community to use to evaluate recruitment interventions or, potentially, other types of intervention linked to trial conduct. It will also increase the evidence base for two types of recruitment intervention.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: The START protocol covers the methodology for embedded trials. Each embedded trial is registered separately or as a substudy of the host trial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2014

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