Background: To describe factors associated with family physicians (FPs) recruitment and participation in a mental health research project.
Methods: 400 FPs were randomly approached for a feasibility study of telephone-supported self-care for depression in adults with chronic physical diseases. FP participation included (1) completing questionnaires at study enrolment and termination to identify personal characteristics, attitudes to patient self-care, and aspects of study implementation; and (2) encouraging patient self-completion of screening forms on depression and comorbid chronic disease in order to assess study eligibility. Outcome measures were the number of FPs who adhered to these tasks, as well as the number of eligible patients recruited from each practice. Chi square and Fisher’s Exact Tests permitted comparison of binary or categorical values, while the Kruskal-Wallis non-parametric test was used for continuous scales.
Results: Of the 400 FPs randomly selected, 29.8% (119/400) were not reachable by telephone; 42.8% (171/400) were assessed as not meeting eligibility criteria; and 59 (53.6%) of the remaining 110 met eligibility criteria, consented, and participated. Predominant reasons for participation were past experience with research projects, interest in the specific topic of mental health care, enthusiasm about self-care, and sense of collegiality. 86.4% (51/59) completed the study entry questionnaire, and 62.7% (37/59) the end of study questionnaire. 66.1% (39/59) submitted at least one positive screening form (range 1-43), with such participation occurring more often amongst FPs in solo practice or with previous research experience.
Conclusion: Recruiting FPs to participate in mental health research and adhere to protocols is challenging and time intensive. To optimize such involvement researchers may need to employ creative strategies unique to study sites, idiosyncrasies of the doctors, and the nature of the topic undergoing study.