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Participant dropout: The bane of clinical trial recruitment

by WilliamJohanna

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The tendency of some participants to drop out of a clinical trial is very frustrating for researchers. Despite their best efforts though, researchers always lose a portion of their participants in the course of studies. The exit of participants along the way affects the clinical trials very adversely. Clinical trial recruitment is both time-consuming and cost-intensive so obviously when some participants drop out the researcher will incur a serious loss. More importantly, losing some of the participants in a study can affect the study to the extent that its findings become invalid. This may not happen often but it's a real danger if the researcher fails to retain all the participants in a study. It is therefore essential that researchers have retention of participants in mind as they plan medical trial recruitments.


People who had already agreed to be part of a study can quit for a number of reasons. Stress and competing life demands account for most dropouts. When people are approached by a patient recruitment specialist and they are highly excited by the idea of taking part in a clinical trial and the gains they can get from it, they are very likely not going to properly factor in the time commitment they'll have to put towards the study. A few days or weeks into the study exhaustion begins to set in because participation in the study demands additional time and effort from the already very busy participants. A number of participants are likely to quit if the recruitment specialist does not offer encouragement and support.


Recruitment specialists have to grapple with the problem of logistics because some people quit studies if they have problems with issues like transportation to the clinic, accommodation when they travel to the clinic if it is in a distant town, where to pack their cars if the clinic is in a busy town center, and so on. A participant can also opt out if he/she is subjected to too many hassles that in his/her opinion are not commensurate with the benefits expected from taking part in the study. Timing of appointments with the researchers is another reason why some participants quit. During clinical trial recruitment a participant may not fully anticipate all the commitments that may crop up along the way and prevent him/her from attending all the appointments with the research staff. Some participants are forced to leave the study even if they really wanted to soldier on simply because they cannot keep up with all the scheduled appointments. These realities thus call for flexibility on the part of a patient recruitment specialist.


A good number of people quit studies simply for lack of motivation. Some of the activities involved in clinical studies are boring and monotonous. For example, participants may be asked to keep daily records of their sleep patterns for several weeks, a task that requires considerable willpower and motivation to complete. Strategies for encouragement and motivation of participants should thus be adopted by a patient recruitment specialist to prevent participants from losing interest in the study.



For more information about clinical trial recruitment please visit

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