Desktop software to identify patients eligible for recruitment into a clinical trial: using SARMA to recruit to the ROAD feasibility trial

Shaun Treweek, Ewan Pearson, Natalie Smith, Ron Neville, Paul Sargeant, Brian Boswell, Frank Sullivan


Background Recruitment to trials in primary care is often difficult, particularly when practice staff need to identify study participants with acute conditions during consultations. The Scottish Acute Recruitment Management Application (SARMA) system is linked to general practice electronic medical record (EMR) systems and is designed to provide recruitment support to multi-centre trials by screening patients against trial inclusion criteria and alerting practice staff if the patient appears eligible. For patients willing to learn more about the trial, the software allows practice staff to send the patient's contact details to the research team by text message.
Aim To evaluate the ability of the software to support trial recruitment.
Design of study Software evaluation embedded in a randomised controlled trial.
Setting Five general practices in Tayside and Fife, Scotland.
Methods SARMA was used to support recruitment to a feasibility trial (the Response to Oral Agents in Diabetes, or ROAD trial) looking at users of oral therapy in diabetes. The technical performance of the software and its utility as a recruitment tool were evaluated.
Results The software was successfully installed at four of the five general practices and recruited 11 of the 29 participants for ROAD (other methods were letter and direct invitation by a practice nurse) and had a recruitment return of 35% (11 of 31 texts sent led to a recruitment). Screen failures were relatively low (7 of 31 referred). Practice staff members were positive about the system.
Conclusion An automated recruitment tool can support primary care trials in Scotland and has the potential to support recruitment in other jurisdictions. It offers a low-cost supplement to other trial recruitment methods and is likely to have a much lower screen failure rate than blanket approaches such as mailshots and newspaper campaigns.


computers; computerised medical record systems; medical informatics; patient selection

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