Research Recruitment and Retention Assistance During COVID-19

Need help with recruiting or retaining study participants?

Whether your study is paused, moving online or you are thinking about future research, the CTSI Recruitment Center is available to help research teams at the University of Florida optimize their recruitment and retention plans through a variety of services.

Man working at desk writing

How do I know if my study can continue enrolling participants?

If you are having trouble determining which tier your study is in, or what the next steps are for IRB-approval to continue remotely, please reach out to CTSI Research Navigator Tiffany Pineda at tiffany.danielle@ufl.edu.

If you are seeking IND/IDE assistance, please reach out to CTSI Regulatory Specialist Sheila Austin at sheila.austin@ufl.edu.


The CTSI Recruitment Center can also connect you with the following services:

UF Health study listing

Any IRB-approved study can be listed on the high-traffic research studies and clinical trials section of the UF Health website.

ResearchMatch

ResearchMatch is a free and secure online tool created by academic institutions across the country. Send your recruitment message to local, state and national volunteers.

Post and advertise on Facebook

There are a few ways you can use Facebook to recruit participants. We can help you learn what methods are best for your study, including using our UF Studies Facebook page.

Consent2Share

Consent2Share allows investigator access to review UF Health patients’ electronic medical records and send recruitment messages to these patients.

HealthStreet

With a cohort of more than 11,900 members, HealthStreet can readily connect willing participants to your study who meet the eligibility criteria.

Retention

Will your study have several remote sessions? Is your study paused and you need to retain your current participants? We can help!

Plan for future studies and funding

We encourage you to take this time to think ahead on recruitment plans, methods and materials for paused studies or studies not yet open to enrollment.

Consent your participants online

The IRB has approved REDCap as a platform to perform informed consents remotely and electronically using REDCap’s survey features.

Request a consultation

Use our online form to submit a 2-hour no-cost consultation request. We will send a Doodle poll to determine a date/time for a Zoom meeting. Consultations take 45 min. – 1 hour.


List your study on the UF Health website

Any IRB-approved study can be listed on the high-traffic research studies and clinical trials section of the UF Health website here. This website received over 22,000 searches for research opportunities in 2019.

Each study has a unique link with keywords that connect to health topics on the hospital website.

Cost: There is no cost to list your study

IRB approval: If your study is IRB-approved, we will use any approved recruitment materials and consent form to create content for the website and no IRB revision is needed. If you would like to link to your survey, this does need an IRB revision. You can use the template here and see an example of a study that links to a survey here.


Use ResearchMatch, a national research registry

ResearchMatch is a free and secure online tool created by academic institutions across the country. When you sign up as a researcher to use ResearchMatch, you send an email, or “contact message”, to the volunteers that meet your inclusion/exclusion criteria.

While we have our own pool of volunteers in the Gainesville, FL area, you can send your recruitment message out to the entire state of Florida or even across the country.

When they receive this email, they are able to select “yes” or “no” at the end of the message if they want to participate. See the screenshot below.

Screenshot of a message from ResearchMatch. It explains that you have two options in the email to select if you are interested in participating - "yes" or "no".

You can contact the individuals that say “yes” directly or send a survey to the individuals that say “yes”.

To see if ResearchMatch is feasible for your study, you can join here and conduct a feasibility query. You can follow instructions in the welcome guide here.

Cost: There is no cost to use ResearchMatch, but it is for health-related studies only.

IRB approval: You need IRB approval to recruit through ResearchMatch. This should be added as a recruitment method and you need to get IRB approval for your contact message using this form. You can upload this as an additional advertising method.

Check out example contact messages here.


Use Facebook to reach your study population

There are a few ways you can use Facebook to recruit participants. Please familiarize yourself with our social media guidelines here.

Option #1: Use Facebook groups and pages

Utilizing existing Facebook groups and pages is a good option for teams with a limited budget (it’s free!) and if there is a specific disease condition where pages and support groups exist.

To see if this is feasible for your study, you can search for groups and pages that are relevant to the study population in the local area. See screenshot below:

Screenshot of a Facebook group search for "Gainesville diabetes"

When searching for groups, we want to make sure we are being as specific as possible. Posting to bigger groups might at first seem like a good way to reach large numbers of people (like Gainesville Word of Mouth), but can result in queries and questions that are difficult to manage due to the sheer volume of the audience you are reaching.

We do not recommend study teams join the private groups or post on the page themselves, instead, we recommend asking the page and group moderator to post on behalf of the study team.

This document will walk you through the process.

Although posting in groups and pages is free, there is no guarantee that the Facebook algorithm will display the post to the intended audience. Paid advertising allows us to track metrics such as clicks, reach, impressions, and budget. Posting to groups and pages does not allow for those analytics unless specifically requested from the group or page moderator. We will walk you through paid advertising below.

Cost: There is no cost to post in Facebook groups and pages

IRB approval: You need IRB approval to use Facebook groups and pages. You can use this document to submit as an additional advertising method.

Option #2: Pay for a Facebook advertising campaign

While posting on groups and pages is free, running ads through our Facebook page called UF Studies has a cost associated. This is primarily because you are paying for a particular target audience to see your ad.

These ads appear in a Facebook user’s newsfeed (on mobile and desktop) and right column (on desktop).

The CTSI Recruitment Center manages the ads for the study team which includes moderating comments, questions and more of the technical aspects including launching and sending study team metrics.

Recruitment Center provides:

  • Facebook plan for 1 ad set (6 ads total)
  • Reporting and metrics
  • Comment monitoring
  • Evaluation of ads

The UF Studies Facebook page has launched over 30 advertising campaigns that contribute to a wealth of knowledge on best practices and effective content and have led to the enrollment of over 1,800 participants.

This method of recruitment requires a consultation with the Recruitment Center. Request a 2-hour no-cost consultation here.  

Cost: There is a cost associated with this service that includes actual ad budget and Recruitment Center services.

The CTSI has vouchers to cover up to $1,000. View the application here. In order to apply, you must first complete a consultation with the Recruitment Center.

IRB approval: You need IRB approval to use UF Studies for Facebook advertising. The Recruitment Center will create this plan for you.


Use the UF Health research registry, Consent2Share

The process of identifying patients who may be interested in participating in future research has been substantially streamlined by the Consent2Share (C2S) process. C2S is a successful pilot project that to date has enrolled 66,597 as of 12/31/2019 adult patients.

The signed consent and authorization allow investigator access to review these patients’ electronic medical records, and if potentially qualified, the IRB can allow investigators to contact patients that otherwise were unknown and unavailable.

Investigators can query this database and retrieve a list of potentially eligible participants to contact for their IRB-approved research study: Register for i2b2 here to run queries of the electronic health record data for feasibility purposes.

In order to run your query, please research the ICD 9 and ICD 10 codes associated with your study population.

Questions? Reach out to the IDR team here: IRBDataRequest@ahc.ufl.edu and visit the website here.

Cost: The first two hours are no-cost, this is typically enough to cover the data query after IRB-approval

Best for: Studies seeking participants with specific disease conditions.

IRB approval: You must submit your study using IRB 01 to get approval to use Consent2Share. The IRB must approve the recruitment method of using Consent2Share and you must also get approval for what contact information you want the IDR team to provide (email, physical address, phone number, etc.). The IRB must also approve any materials you plan to distribute to potential participants.

Once you have IRB approval to use Consent2Share, you will need to fill out the data request form here so the IDR team can send you a list of potential participants.


Reach community members in North Central Florida through HealthStreet

HealthStreet aims to reduce disparities in access to healthcare and research and increases the community’s trust in the research enterprise.

Community Health Workers interview community members about their health concerns and health needs.

Our cohort of over 12,000 members begins the process by signing an informed consent allowing us to share information with you that will facilitate enrollment in UF research. Nearly 60% of our members are underrepresented minorities. Since we receive study information from the IRB, we are aware of the inclusion and exclusion criteria for your study, which facilitates navigation to and enrollment in your study.

COVID Schedule: We are still working virtually at this time, so if you are interested in our services, please reach out!

Cost: The cost of navigating members to your study is based on the type of recruitment. We recruit for common conditions, specific/non-common conditions, or highly specific and targeted populations. Based on this, the cost varies. 95% of our members are interested in being involved in health research. For more information, contact Sara Marsh at smarsh26@ufl.edu or call (352) 294-4873.

The CTSI has vouchers to cover up to $1,000. View the application here. In order to apply, you must first complete a consultation with HealthStreet.

Additionally, HealthStreet provides facility use for conducting study interviews, focus groups, research seminars, and other workshops. Facility use is free, based on availability. Free parking is provided to all PIs and research participants.

IRB approval: You must check the HealthStreet box on the IRB form to use our services; this takes seconds to do and can even be fixed after your study is underway.


Retention

Will your study have several remote sessions? Is your study paused and you need to retain your current participants?

We encourage you to continue to foster relationships with your participants if your study is moved online, requires several remote sessions or is even paused during this time.

This includes:

  • Creating a communication plan to help explain the current situation to participants and why the study is being moved online or paused
  • Staying connected with your participants as the situation changes, keeping them updated and answering any questions they have

Plan for future studies and funding

We encourage you to take this time to think ahead on recruitment plans, methods and materials for paused studies or studies not yet open to enrollment. We can discuss your options during a no-cost consultation.

Are you planning for upcoming funding applications? The CTSI Recruitment Center can provide a no-cost consultation to discuss a recruitment plan that will work best with your study and provide a letter of support to submit with your application. This letter of support will demonstrate the feasibility of your study to reviewers along with a description of these recruitment strategies and costs.