June 1, 2022

Using the recruitment of study participants as an example, the DKF research group of Matthias Briel shows how results from meta-research can be used in every day clinical study planning.

Meta-research is a competence focus at the DKF. This discipline strives for evidence-based improvement of research and subsequently of health care. Meta-research is also known as "research on research" and examines the reliability of research methods. The goal is to continuously achieve structural improvements at as many levels of the research process as possible.

Patient recruitment, a relevant topic

One topic that DKF research group leader Matthias Briel together with several international colleagues has been addressing for many years is the recruitment of study participants. As early as 2014, the researchers were able to show that inadequate recruitment is the most common reason for discontinuation of randomised clinical trials and thus a relevant problem. Further research by the group identified the most common reasons for recruitment problems, as well as an analysis of whether poor recruitment can be avoided.

The benefits in practice

The findings from these research projects will now be directly incorporated into the planning of future clinical trials at DKF, so that premature trial discontinuations due to inadequate recruitment can be prevented wherever possible. Matthias Briel and Katja Suter, Scientific Officer in the DKF team Coordination & Project Management, have therefore launched a knowledge transfer project. The aim was to draw attention to the importance of the topic, to provide tools and to point out existing support services in the context of recruitment.

The result is a catalog of measures that addresses the 10 most common causes of inadequate recruitment. The measures are intended to take into account risks for inadequate recruitment as early as possible in the planning phase and to counteract them preventively. In developing the measures, the DKF has also drawn on its extensive experience in supporting a wide range of studies and research projects.

How the measures will prove themselves in practice and exactly how great their effects will be has to be evaluated. In any case, researchers can already seek advice on ideas and approaches for the most efficient recruitment of study participants.