Published November 17, 2021
Retention in research is a major issue for investigators conducting clinical trials. The challenges and solutions involved with this timely topic will be the subject of the next seminar in the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Distinguished Seminar Series, which presents top experts on a diverse range of topics.
On Wednesday, December 1, Stephanie O’Malley, PhD, Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, Deputy Chair Clinical Research, Yale School of Medicine, will discuss “Effective Strategies for Maintaining Research Participation in Clinical Trials.” The free seminar will be held online via Zoom from 4 to 5 p.m.; find more information and registration link here.
In this seminar, O’Malley will outline how attrition from clinical trials can threaten the validity, generalizability, and reliability of study results and undermine the considerable investment made by participants, researchers, and funders. She will also address the critical importance of ensuring high retention in clinical trials in order to meet the goal of scientific rigor and unbiased results, while evaluating and providing practical strategies for maintaining research participation.
O’Malley says a key element of her presentation will be a discussion of exactly why retention in research is so important.
“Recruitment is often a paramount concern for researchers with less systematic attention given to retention,” she explains. “However, maintaining excellent retention is essential to preserving the rigor and power of the study and to reducing the risk of bias in the overall study results.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made both recruitment and retention even more challenging.
“The pandemic has made retention using traditional methods of in person assessments more difficult due to institutional restrictions on patient facing activities and the concerns of participants,” O’Malley says. “At the same time, these challenges have provided the impetus to develop alternative methods to engage and retain participants using remote interviews and technologies, strategies I anticipate will become common practice even when the pandemic is behind us.”
Also challenging is retention of minoritized groups in research. O’Malley says the barriers that exist here must be addressed by researchers.
“Several important challenges exist to the retention of minoritized groups, particularly for individuals of lower socioeconomic status,” she explains. “For example, they may face a number of barriers, including jobs that do not allow for easy time off, reliance on public transportation, or difficulty arranging childcare. To address these issues, we need to be flexible with hours for appointments, be willing to see them closer to where they live, and/or provide compensation for the additional expenses they incur due to the research. Having staff members from the same communities can also be very helpful in enhancing trust and retention in the study.”
In addition to discussing challenges, O’Malley says her seminar will provide examples from a range of studies including strategies that have been proposed to enhance retention of individuals from all members of the community, including minoritized groups.
“Some of the methods discussed will include creating a welcoming environment and building trust, incentives and ways to reduce barriers to retention as well as approaches to monitoring and responding to anticipated and actual lapses in participation,” she says.
O’Malley was suggested as a Distinguished Seminar Speaker by Jeffrey M. Lackner, PsyD, Co-Director, CTSI Workforce Development Core, Professor of Medicine and Chief, Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Lackner, who explained that he has known O’Malley for 30 years, says that “what has always impressed me about her work is how systematic and practical it has to improving outcomes in clinical trials and routine clinical care. Dr. O’Malley has done cutting-edge research which provides nuts and bolts tools for how clinicians and researchers can optimize recruitment. Beyond her alcohol work, her research in non-research settings shows how providers can improve retention of patients in everyday clinical settings.”
For questions about the CTSI Distinguished Seminar Series, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 829-4718.