The overlap between randomised evaluations of recruitment and retention interventions: An updated review of recruitment (ORRCA) and retention (ORRCA2) literature

Anna Kearney, Laura Laura Butlin, Taylor Coffey, Thomas Conway, Sarah Cotterill, Alison Evans, Jackie Fox, Andrew Hunter, Sarah Inglis, Louise Murphy, Nurulamin Noor, Terrie Walker-Smith, Carrol Gamble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Online Resource for Recruitment in Clinical triAls (ORRCA) and the Online Resource for Retention in Clinical triAls (ORRCA2) were established to organise and map the literature addressing participant recruitment and retention within clinical research. The two databases are updated on an ongoing basis using separate but parallel systematic reviews. However, recruitment and retention of research participants is widely acknowledged to be interconnected. Whilst interventions aimed at addressing recruitment challenges can impact retention and vice versa, it is not clear how well they are simultaneously considered within methodological research. This study aims to report the recent update of ORRCA and ORRCA2 with a special emphasis on assessing crossover of the databases and how frequently randomised studies of methodological interventions measure the impact on both recruitment and retention outcomes.

Methods: Two parallel systematic reviews were conducted in line with previously reported methods updating ORRCA (recruitment) and ORRCA2 (retention) with publications from 2018 and 2019. Articles were categorised according to their evidence type (randomised evaluation, non-randomised evaluation, application and observation) and against the recruitment and retention domain frameworks. Articles categorised as randomised evaluations were compared to identify studies appearing in both databases. For randomised studies that were only in one database, domain categories were used to assess whether the methodological intervention was likely to impact on the alternate construct. For example, whether a recruitment intervention might also impact retention.

Results: 806 of 17,767 articles screened for the recruitment database and 175 of 18,656 articles screened for the retention database were added as result of the update. 89 articles were classified as ‘randomised evaluation’, of which 6 were systematic reviews and 83 were randomised evaluations of methodological interventions. 10/83 (12%) of randomised studies assessed recruitment and retention and were included in both databases. 48/55 (87%) of the randomised studies only in the recruitment database assessed the content or format of participant information which could have an impact on retention. Of the randomised studies only in the retention database, 6/18 (33%) assessed monetary incentives, 4/18 (22%) assessed data collection location and methods and 3/18 (17%) assessed non-monetary incentives, all of which could have an impact on recruitment.

Conclusion: Only a small proportion of randomised studies of methodological interventions assessed the impact on both recruitment and retention despite having a potential impact on both outcomes. Where possible, an integrated approach analysing both constructs should be the new standard for these types of evaluations to ensure that improvements to recruitment are not at the expense of retention and vice versa.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Trials
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Jan 2024

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