Author(s): KoziolMcLain J, McLean C, Rohan M, Sisk R, Dobbs T,
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Automated eHealth Web-based research trials offer people an accessible, confidential opportunity to engage in research that matters to them. eHealth trials may be particularly useful for sensitive issues when seeking health care may be accompanied by shame and mistrust. Yet little is known about people's early engagement with eHealth trials, from recruitment to preintervention autoregistration processes. A recent randomized controlled trial that tested the effectiveness of an eHealth safety decision aid for New Zealand women in the general population who experienced intimate partner violence (isafe) provided the opportunity to examine recruitment and preintervention participant engagement with a fully automated Web-based registration process. The trial aimed to recruit 340 women within 24 months. OBJECTIVE: The objective of our study was to examine participant preintervention engagement and recruitment efficiency for the isafe trial, and to analyze dropout through the registration pathway, from recruitment to eligibility screening and consent, to completion of baseline measures. METHODS: In this case study, data collection sources included the trial recruitment log, Google Analytics reports, registration and program metadata, and costs. Analysis included a qualitative narrative of the recruitment experience and descriptive statistics of preintervention participant engagement and dropout rates. A Koyck model investigated the relationship between Web-based online marketing website advertisements (ads) and participant accrual. RESULTS: The isafe trial was launched on September 17, 2012. Placement of ads in an online classified advertising platform increased the average number of recruited participants per month from 2 to 25. Over the 23-month recruitment period, the registration website recorded 4176 unique visitors. Among 1003 women meeting eligibility criteria, 51.55\% (517) consented to participate; among the 501 women who enrolled (consented, validated, and randomized), 412 (82.2\%) were accrued (completed baseline assessments). The majority (n=52, 58\%) of the 89 women who dropped out between enrollment and accrual never logged in to the allocated isafe website. Of every 4 accrued women, 3 (314/412, 76.2\%) identified the classified ad as their referral source, followed by friends and family (52/412, 12.6\%). Women recruited through a friend or relative were more likely to self-identify as indigenous Māori and live in the highest-deprivation areas. Ads increased the accrual rate by a factor of 74 (95\% CI 49-112). CONCLUSIONS: Print advertisements, website links, and networking were costly and inefficient methods for recruiting participants to a Web-based eHealth trial. Researchers are advised to limit their recruitment efforts to Web-based online marketplace and classified advertising platforms, as in the isafe case, or to social media. Online classified advertising in "Jobs-Other-volunteers" successfully recruited a diverse sample of women experiencing intimate partner violence. Preintervention recruitment data provide critical information to inform future research and critical analysis of Web-based eHealth trials. CLINICALTRIAL: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR): ACTRN12612000708853; https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?ACTRN=12612000708853 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation/6lMGuVXdK).
This article was published in J Med Internet Res
and referenced in Journal of Socialomics