A Systematic Review of Methods used to Conduct Decentralised Clinical Trials

Amy Rogers (Lead / Corresponding author), Giorgia De Paoli, Selvarani Subbarayan, Rachel Copland, Kate Harwood, Joanne Coyle, Lyn Mitchell, Thomas M. MacDonald, Isla S. Mackenzie,

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
227 Downloads (Pure)


Aims: To evaluate, using quantitative and qualitative approaches, published data on the design and conduct of decentralised clinical trials (DCTs). Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, PsycINFO, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, ClinicalTrials.gov, OpenGrey and Google Scholar for publications reporting, discussing, or evaluating decentralised clinical research methods. Reports of randomised clinical trials using decentralised methods were included in a focused quantitative analysis with a primary outcome of number of randomised participants. All publications discussing or evaluating DCTs were included in a wider qualitative analysis to identify advantages, disadvantages, facilitators, barriers and stakeholder opinions of decentralised clinical trials. Quantitative data were summarised using descriptive statistics, and qualitative data analysed using a thematic approach. Results: Initial searches identified 19 704 articles. After removal of duplicates, 18 553 were screened, resulting in 237 eligible for full-text assessment. Forty-five trials were included in the quantitative analysis; 117 documents were included in the qualitative analysis. Trials were widely heterogeneous in design and reporting, precluding meta-analysis of the effect of DCT methods on the primary recruitment outcome. Qualitative analysis formulated 4 broad themes: value, burden, safety and equity. Participant and stakeholder experiences of DCTs were incompletely represented. Conclusion: DCTs are developing rapidly. However, there is insufficient evidence to confirm which methods are most effective in trial recruitment, retention, or overall cost. The identified advantages, disadvantages, facilitators and barriers should inform the development of DCT methods. We recommend further research on how DCTs are experienced and perceived by participants and stakeholders to maximise potential benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2843-2862
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number6
Early online date27 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Systematic review
  • clinical trials
  • decentralised clinical trials
  • recruitment
  • retention
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


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