Strategies to enhance patient recruitment and retention in research involving patients with a first episode of mental illness
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Recruitment and retention of research participants is often the most labor-intensive and difficult component of clinical trials. Poor recruitment and retention frequently pose as a major barrier in the successful completion of clinical trials. In fact, many studies are prematurely terminated, or their findings questioned due to low recruitment and retention rates. The conduct of clinical trials involving youth with a first episode of mental illness comes with additional challenges in recruitment and retention including barriers associated with engagement and family involvement. To develop effective early interventions for first episode mental illness, it is necessary to develop strategies to enhance recruitment and retention in this patient population. This article presents the recruitment and retention challenges experienced in two clinical trials: one involving participants experiencing a first episode of depression and one involving participants experiencing a first episode psychosis. Challenges with recruitment and retention are identified and reviewed at both the patient level and clinician level. Strategies that were implemented to enhance recruitment and retention in these two studies are also discussed. Finally, ethical issues to consider when implementing these strategies are also highlighted.
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