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Contemp Clin Trials. 2009 Jan;30(1):55-62. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2008.09.002. Epub 2008 Sep 7.

An automated communication system in a contact registry for persons with rare diseases: scalable tools for identifying and recruiting clinical research participants.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, FL 33612, United States.



Strategies for study recruitment are useful in clinical research network settings. We describe a registry of individuals who have self-identified with one of a multiplicity of rare diseases, and who express a willingness to be contacted regarding possible enrollment in clinical research studies. We evaluate this registry and supporting tools in terms of registry enrollment and impact on participation rates in advertised clinical research studies.


A web-based automated system generates periodic and customized communications to notify registrants of relevant studies in the NIH Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN). The majority of these communications are sent by email. We compare the characteristics of those enrolled in the registry to the characteristics of participants enrolled in sampled RDCRN studies in order to estimate the impact of the registry on study participation in the network.


The registry currently contains over 4000 registrants, representing 40 rare diseases. Estimates of study participation range from 6-27% for all enrollees. Study participation rates for some disease areas are over 40% when considering only contact registry enrollees who live within 100 mi of a clinical research study site.


Automated notifications can facilitate consistent, customized, and timely communication of relevant protocol information to potential research subjects. Our registry and supporting communication tools demonstrate a significant positive impact on study participation rates in our network. The use of the internet and automated notifications make the system scalable to support many protocols and registrants.

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