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13 ways to increase GPs participation in qualitative research

Based on my qualitative research with GPs, I wrote a peer-reviewed paper titled: Recruiting General Practitioners in England to Participate in Qualitative Research: Challenges, Strategies, and Solutions which explains the challenges I faced when recruiting GPs to qualitative research, and the approaches I took to overcome those challenges. Unfortunately the paper sits behind a pay-wall, but do feel free to contact me if you’d like to read a copy of the paper. These findings may also be useful to user researchers looking to recruit GPs to take part in research studies.

The following are 13 practical ways to increase GPs’ participation in qualitative research:

  1. Take advice from those who have recruited GPs before to similar studies as yours.
  2. Get advice from the PCRN. They may help informally even if they have not formally adopted your study.
  3. Ask GP friends or other medical acquaintances to ask other GPs on your behalf. GPs may be more likely to respond to GPs or medical acquaintances.
  4. Consider getting a prominent GP or GP Academic to formally send out the invitation on your behalf or endorse the study.
  5. Be flexible and willing to conduct the interview out of hours and on the weekend.
  6. Be flexible with the location of the interview. You may have to interview at the GP’s home or another location of their choice. You may also have to travel a distance.
  7. Skype or phone may suit some GPs better for interviews because they can take part on their day off, away from the GP practice.
  8. Consider changing sampling strategy when needed, for example, moving from random sampling to snowball sampling.
  9. Consider using digital tools such as email, email-based newsletters, and social media to recruit GPs.
  10. Target GP Continuing Professional Development (CPD) meetings, especially useful for short interviews or surveys.
  11. Target major PCT meetings, again especially useful for short interviews or short surveys.
  12. Consider targeting locum GPs. They have more time and flexibility. However, this should be used with caution as it could introduce bias depending on the research topic.
  13. Consider targeting academic GPs too. They are likely to be keen to support research. However, this should be used with caution too as it could introduce bias depending on the research topic.

The abstract of the paper is as follows:

In 2012, I conducted my first PhD study exploring general practitioners’ attitudes toward online patient feedback. After designing the research questions and topic guide to conduct the interviews, I reviewed existing literature where authors described recruiting general practitioners to take part in research. I found there was some focus in the literature on the challenges associated with low general practitioner participation in survey-based and intervention studies, but little that described the process, experience, and challenges associated with recruiting general practitioners to take part in qualitative research.

Although general practitioners are known to be a difficult group to recruit to take part in research, the recruitment process I experienced was much more challenging than I had anticipated. This case study sheds light on my experience of recruiting 20 general practitioners in England to an interview-based study, and outlines a critical reflection on the eight strategies used for recruitment. I started by using traditional methods such as postal invitations and faxes to recruit general practitioners. Due to the very low success rate, I resorted to using more inexpensive and creative methods, such as sending an invitation letter through email, advertising in general practitioner Email Newsletters, seeking help from existing research networks, recruiting through friends and acquaintances, and using social media. In this case study, I also describe the participants’ (general practitioners’) motivations for taking part in the study, and I conclude with offering suggestions on how to maximize response rates to general practitioner-based qualitative studies in England.


The complete article with further detail is available here or feel free to contact me for a copy of the paper.

Published in Featured Healthcare Research Research Methods User Research


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