Inadequate participant recruitment, which may lead to unrepresentative study samples that threaten a study’s validity, is often a major challenge in the conduct of research studies.
The purpose of this article is to describe the development and implementation of a recruitment plan and evaluate the different recruitment strategies for a prostate cancer behavioral intervention trial.
Our recruitment plan was based on a framework (The Heiney–Adams Recruitment Model) that we developed, which combines relationship building and social marketing. We evaluated the success of our model using several different recruitment sources including: mailed letters, physician referral, and self-referral.
Recruitment rates ranged from 67% for a support services department mailing to 100% for physician referral. While our original list of contacted patients was comprised of only 13% African American (AA) men, 22% of our recruited participants were AA.
One of the strongest barriers to recruitment was strict patient eligibility. Another significant barrier was the lack of electronic records systems to allow for the identification of large numbers of potential participants.
In conclusion, our model incorporating social marketing and relationship building was quite successful in recruiting for a prostate cancer behavioral study, particularly AA participants. In developing strategies, future researchers should attend to issues of staffing, financial resources, physician support, and eligibility criteria in the light of study accrual.