Effective Recruitment Strategies

Know your Subject Population

During the planning phase for a project, learn about the subject population – demographics, past experiences, current circumstances, etc. It is essential to identify the best methods to reach your potential subjects. Use the knowledge you have about your subject population to plan messages that will be well received.

Screening BEFORE / AFTER Enrollment

Prescreening before enrollment is good for everyone. It is respectful of the time of potential subjects; saving them a trip to Iowa City or to the research clinic if they do not meet basic study qualifications. It conserves the precious time of study personnel; not to have more study visits than necessary to meet enrollment goals.

Recruitment from medical record or clinic information

Researchers need IRB approval to use the medical record or clinic information to identify potential subjects.  Access to Protected Health Information (PHI) prior to consenting subjects for research studies is required because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the Privacy Rule.  The IRB serves as the HIPAA Privacy Board for the institution. With proper justification in the HawkIRB application, the IRB can grant a partial waiver of HIPAA authorization for researchers to use health information to screen for study eligibility. The Privacy Rule allows IRBs, designated as Privacy Boards, to review requests to alter part or all of the Authorization requirements to use or disclosure PHI for research studies and provide documentation of the waiver. A Partial Waiver of HIPAA Authorization for Recruitment Purposes is requested in Section VII.D of the HawkIRB application. 

Researchers can collect different screening information BEFORE and AFTER a subject is enrolled in the study.

Screening BEFORE consent:

  • Generalized information
  • Groups of medical conditions
  • Birthdate/age
  • Behaviors (i.e., smoking status)

Screening AFTER consent:

  • Specific information
  • Questions about specific diseases
  • Questions about embarrassing/sensitive topics
  • Illegal behaviors (i.e., underage drinking)

Researcher Responsibilities

For successful study recruitment, researchers must identify and minimize barriers to participation, such as:

  • Work schedule
  • Language
  • Medical issues
  • Mobility
  • Fear
  • Transportation

There are a variety of ways that researchers can minimize barriers to participation. Follow up contacts can make sure subjects heard about and understood the study. Present information in different ways to reach the intended audience. Some researchers provide mileage reimbursement, pay for parking, provide meals or vouchers, and compensation to cover subject expenses. All of these activities must be included in the budget and described in the HawkIRB application to obtain IRB approval.

IRB Approval Requirements

Researchers need a thorough, detailed recruitment plan prior to preparing the HawkIRB application. When completing the application, describe the recruitment methods in Section VII.D. Attach all necessary recruitment materials. The IRB must review the graphic design elements of posters, flyers, brochures and other printed recruitment materials.

If someone is involved in conducting study activities, they need to be named on the research team. But there is an exception for people who are just sharing basic, IRB-approved information about a study. For example, a teacher could send a recruitment flyer home with students without being named on the research team. An individual who is not named on the research team could even take the name and contact information of someone who is interested in the study and pass it along to the research team. The general rule is that if someone is telling people about a study, answering questions, and/or conducting the consent process, they need to be named on the research team. Contact the Human Subjects Office (irb@uiowa.edu(link sends e-mail)) if you have any questions about whether someone helping with recruitment activities needs to be named on the research team.

The IRB does not require an IRB approval stamp on recruitment materials. However, some places require documentation of IRB approval before they will allow certain recruitment activities, including:

  • Cambus posters
  • Noon News announcements
  • Press release through UI or UI Health Care media offices
  • Mass email message sent through UI Information Technology Services (ITS)

Additional Resources