Effective and efficient participant recruitment is a key determinant of the success of a research program. Previously reported recruitment strategies have displayed variable success rates in studies on women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness and cost per participant of the recruitment strategies that we used in a prospective randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of exercise training among inactive women with PCOS, who are aged 18-40 years.
The 4 recruitment methods we used were as follows: (1) referral by health care providers or by word of mouth, (2) media (eg, local newspaper stories and radio interviews), (3) Facebook advertisements, and (4) unpaid advertisements including posters and websites. The proportions of potential, eligible, and enrolled participants recruited with each method were determined and compared using tests of proportion. The time investment and cost per participant enrolled were calculated for each recruitment strategy.
Of 200 potential participants screened, 98 (49%) were recruited from unpaid advertisements (posters and websites), 70 (35%) from Facebook advertisements, 16 (8%) by referral, and 16 (8%) from traditional media (newspaper and radio). Every potential participant was recruited from separate means (ie, no participant was approached through more than one recruitment method). A total of 109 (54.5%) women were deemed eligible for participation in the trial, and 60 (30.0%) were enrolled. The proportion of potential participants who completed the trial was higher for those recruited from traditional media than from Facebook advertisements (n=7/16, 44% vs n=13/70, 19%, respectively; P=.03) or unpaid advertisements (n=7/16, 44% vs n=13/98, 13%, respectively; P=.002). The cost per participant was Can $18.21 (US $14.46) for Facebook advertisements and Can $43.88 (US $34.85) for unpaid advertisements. There were no direct trial costs for referrals or traditional media.
For this trial, each method was important for recruiting inactive women with PCOS because no participant reported learning about the trial through more than one method. Unpaid advertisements and Facebook advertisements helped recruit the largest number of participants in the trial, the former resulting in a higher cost per participant than the latter.
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03362918; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03362918.

©Jamie L Benham, Jane E Booth, Christine M Friedenreich, Doreen M Rabi, Ronald J Sigal. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 30.03.2021.