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Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2013 Jan;14(1):21-8. doi: 10.1017/S1463423612000047. Epub 2012 Apr 2.

Recruiting patients and collecting data for an observational study using computerised record pop-up prompts: the PROG-RES study.

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  • 1NIHR GP Clinical Lecturer, Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire, UK.



Engagement of general practitioners (GPs) and recruitment of patients are ever present problems in primary care studies. This paper seeks to demonstrate that electronic prompts represent one method of easing the burden on GPs to recruit individual patients to studies and also provide the opportunity to collect research data during a normal consultation.


Older adults consulting for non-inflammatory musculoskeletal pain from five general practices in Cheshire were recruited to a prospective cohort study (the PROG-RES study). Recruitment of patients was aided by a computer prompt during relevant consultations. When triggered by an appropriate Read code, a pop-up template appeared on the consultation screen prompting the GPs to record the answers to seven brief questions. A self-complete questionnaire was mailed to patients who had completed templates by the Keele GP Research Network team and permission was sought to access their medical records. A feasibility study suggested that the potential number of activated templates in the practice within four months would be 636.


The 44 GPs completed 650 electronic templates during the four-month recruitment period. Almost 40% of recruitment was within four weeks and greater than 95% of recruitment was within 16 weeks. Practices A-D completed electronic templates at a similar rate (1.61-1.86 templates per 1000 patients), although practice E completed templates at a lower frequency (0.76) due to internal difficulties. Completion of individual items ranged from 98% to 83% and completion of all seven questions was recorded in 63% of patients; 4% of patients had three or fewer responses recorded. Conclusion Templates activated by appropriate codes in the GP consultation can facilitate recruitment to observational studies in primary care. It is possible to collect high-quality research data within a normal consultation. This may be a model for use in future studies in primary care.

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