In this issue of Academic Medicine, Kitterman and colleagues report the results of an evaluation of the prevalence and cost of low-enrolling studies (zero or one participant enrolled) conducted at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). They found that one-third of all studies terminated between 2005 and 2009 at OHSU had low enrollment and that these low-enrolling studies cost the institution almost $1 million annually. The recruitment of research participants is critical to conducting clinical and translational research. Failure to recruit research participants has a negative financial impact, but, more importantly, underenrolled studies do not contribute to scientific or clinical knowledge. In this commentary, the authors describe four areas in which academic health centers (AHCs) could invest more effort and resources to improve the recruitment of research participants. First, more planning and resources should be put into determining the feasibility of participant recruitment. Second, studies that are underenrolling should be terminated early to prevent unethical research, to save financial and other resources, and to allow these resources to be applied to successful research. Third, AHCs should professionalize, centralize, and automate participant recruitment. Fourth, AHCs should take a leadership role in partnering with the public to improve participation in clinical research. Participant recruitment must be improved if clinical and translational research is to meet its promise of improving health.
Ms. Nasser is director, Participant Recruitment Service, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), San Francisco, California.
Dr. Grady is professor, Department of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine, and codirector, UCSF CTSI, San Francisco, California.
Dr. Balke is professor, Department of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine, and director, Clinical Research Services Program, UCSF CTSI, San Francisco, California.
Editor's Note: This is a commentary on Kitterman DR, Cheng SK, Dilts DM, Orwoll ES. The prevalence and economic impact of low-enrolling clinical studies at an academic medical center. Acad Med. 2011;86:1360–1366.
Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Balke, University of California, San Francisco, 505 Parnassus Avenue, M-1203, UCSF Box 0126, San Francisco, CA 94143-0126; telephone: (415) 476-8127; fax: (415) 514-8822; e-mail: email@example.com.