Early experience with an opt-in research register - Scottish Health Research Register (SHARE): a multi-method evaluation of participant recruitment performance

Wen Shi (Lead / Corresponding author), Shobna Vasishta, Louise Dow, Daniella Cavellini, Colin Palmer, Brian McKinstry, Frank Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Background: Recruiting participants to a clinical study is a resource-intensive process with a high failure rate. The Scottish Health Research Register (SHARE) provides recruitment support service which helps researchers recruit participants by searching patients’ Electronic Health Records (EHRs). The current study aims to evaluate the performance of SHARE in participant recruitment.

Methods: Recruitment projects eligible for evaluation were those that were conducted for clinical trials or observational studies and finished before 2020. For analysis of recruitment data, projects with incomplete data were excluded. For each project we calculated, from SHARE records, 1) the fraction of the participants recruited through SHARE as a percentage of the number requested by researchers (percentage fulfilled), 2) the percentage of the potential candidates provided by SHARE to researchers that were actually recruited (percentage provided and recruited), 3) the percentage of the participants recruited through SHARE of all the potentially eligible candidates identified by searching registrants’ EHRs (percentage identified and recruited). Research teams of the eligible projects were invited to participate in an anonymised online survey. Two metrics were derived from research teams’ responses, including a) the fraction of the recruited over the study target number of participants (percentage fulfilled), and b) the percentage of the participants recruited through SHARE among the candidates received from SHARE (percentage provided and recruited).

Results: Forty-four projects were eligible for inclusion. Recruitment data for 24 projects were available (20 excluded because of missingness or incompleteness). Survey invites were sent to all the eligible research teams and received 12 responses. Analysis of recruitment data shows the overall percentage fulfilled was 34.2% (interquartile 13.3–45.1%), the percentage provided and recruited 29.3% (interquartile 20.6–52.4%) and percentage identified and recruited 4.9% (interquartile 2.6–10.2%). Based on the data reported by researchers, percentage fulfilled was 31.7% (interquartile 5.8–59.6%) and percentage provided and recruited was 20.2% (interquartile 8.2–31.0%).

Conclusions: SHARE may be a valuable resource for recruiting participants for some clinical studies. Potential improvements are to expand the registrant base and to incorporate more data generated during patients’ different health care encounters into the candidate-searching step.

Original languageEnglish
Article number286
Number of pages20
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021


  • Electronic health records
  • Patient recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Informatics


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