Using digital tools in clinical, health and social care research: a mixed-methods study of UK stakeholders.

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Craddock, Carly
Evans, Mark
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Clinical research , Clinical trial , Ditital tools , Health research , Interviews , Mixed-methods study , Peer-reviewed article , Qualitative research , Questionnaire , Research methods , Research design , Social care research , Survey , Telemedicine , Thematic analysis , United Kingdom
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Abstract Objective: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated changes to clinical research methodology, with clinical studies being carried out via online/remote means. This mixed-methods study aimed to identify which digital tools are currently used across all stages of clinical research by stakeholders in clinical, health and social care research and investigate their experience using digital tools. Design: Two online surveys followed by semistructured interviews were conducted. Interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed and analysed thematically. Setting, participants: To explore the digital tools used since the pandemic, survey participants (researchers and related staff (n=41), research and development staff (n=25)), needed to have worked on clinical, health or social care research studies over the past 2 years (2020-2022) in an employing organisation based in the West Midlands region of England (due to funding from a regional clinical research network (CRN)). Survey participants had the opportunity to participate in an online qualitative interview to explore their experiences of digital tools in greater depth (n=8). Results: Six themes were identified in the qualitative interviews: 'definition of a digital tool in clinical research'; 'impact of the COVID-19 pandemic'; 'perceived benefits/drawbacks of digital tools'; 'selection of a digital tool'; 'barriers and overcoming barriers' and 'future digital tool use'. The context of each theme is discussed, based on the interview results. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate how digital tools are becoming embedded in clinical research, as well as the breadth of tools used across different research stages. The majority of participants viewed the tools positively, noting their ability to enhance research efficiency. Several considerations were highlighted; concerns about digital exclusion; need for collaboration with digital expertise/clinical staff, research on tool effectiveness and recommendations to aid future tool selection. There is a need for the development of resources to help optimise the selection and use of appropriate digital tools for clinical research staff and participants.
Received 12th June 2023. Accepted 8th February 2024. First published 3rd April 2024. Online issue publication 3rd April 2024.
Clohessy S, Arvanitis TN, Rashid U, Craddock C, Evans M, Toro CT, Elliott MT. Using digital tools in clinical, health and social care research: a mixed-methods study of UK stakeholders. BMJ Open. 2024 Apr 3;14(4):e076613. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-076613. PMID: 38569710.
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