Lessons Learned: Recruiting Research Participants from an Underrepresented Patient Population at a Safety Net Hospital

Mike Wambua, Miamoua Vang, Crystal Audi, Mark Linzer, David T. Eton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Recruiting participants to clinical research studies is challenging, especially when conducted in safety net settings. We sought to compare the efficacy of different recruitment strategies in an NIH-funded study assessing treatment burden in patients with multiple chronic conditions (MCCs). Methods: Targeted mailing, in-person table-based recruitment (“tabling”) in the waiting room, and telephone calling were used to enroll subjects into one of two studies of treatment burden: a survey study to validate a brief measure of treatment burden for quality assessment (study 1) or a qualitative study to develop a treatment burden clinical communication tool (study 2). Results: Over 50% of subjects in each study were African American or African immigrants. In study 1, the enrollment goal of 200 was reached within 4 months. Tabling enrolled 78.5% of patients, while the remainder (21.5%) were enrolled from phone calls to eligible patients identified through the electronic medical record (EMR). In study 2, 340 eligible patients were identified through the EMR, and 7 (2.1%) were successfully enrolled via mailed invitations and responses. Retention rates (66% in study 1 and 71% in study 2) were reasonable in all groups. Conclusions: Study recruiting goals in our safety net population were rapidly reached using the tabling method, which had substantively higher enrollment rates than mailings or telephone calls based on EMR reports. Future trials could compare recruitment strategies across settings and clinical populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-927
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Burden of treatment
  • Recruitment methods
  • Underrepresented patient population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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