A secondary qualitative analysis of stakeholder views about participant recruitment, retention, and adherence in decentralised clinical trials (DCTs)

Joanne Coyle, Amy Rogers (Lead / Corresponding author), Rachel Copland, Giorgia De Paoli, Thomas M. MacDonald, Isla S. Mackenzie,

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Decentralised clinical trials (DCTs) are clinical trials where all or most trial activities occur in or near participants' homes instead of hospitals or research sites. While more convenient for participants, DCTs may offer limited opportunities to build trust with investigators and trial teams. This qualitative analysis explored DCT stakeholder views to inform strategies for maximising participant recruitment, retention, and adherence.

Methods: A secondary analysis of original interview transcripts focused on participant engagement: recruitment, retention, and adherence. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of stakeholders, including trial managers and administrators, investigators, nurses, vendors, and patient representatives. Interview data were coded using a thematic approach to generate descriptive themes.

Results: Forty-eight stakeholders were interviewed. Three components of participant engagement in DCTs were identified: identifying and attracting potential participants, retaining participants and encouraging adherence, and involvement of patients and the public. Interviewees believed that a potential participant's beliefs about research value and their trust in the research team strongly influenced the likelihood of taking part in a DCT. Early involvement of patients was identified as one way to gauge participant priorities. However, perceived burden was seen as a barrier to recruitment. Factors influencing retention and adherence were related to the same underlying motivators that drove recruitment: personal values, circumstances, and burden. Being part of a DCT should not conflict with the original motivations to participate.

Conclusion: Recruitment, retention, and adherence in DCTs are driven by factors that have previously been found to affect conventional clinical trials. Increasing patient and public involvement can address many of these factors. In contrast to conventional trials, DCTs are perceived as requiring greater emphasis on communication, and contact, to engender trust between participants and researchers despite a relative lack of in-person interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number614
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2022


  • Adherence
  • DCT
  • Decentralised clinical trials
  • Qualitative interviews
  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Virtual trials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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