Difficulties in recruiting frail older inpatients to intervention studies

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To describe difficulties experienced with recruitment of frail, malnourished inpatients aged 65+ years to a 12-week multidisciplinary home-based nutrition and physical activity intervention (SUSTAIN) and to identify factors associated with non-participation.


A multidisciplinary team approach to recruitment involved monthly team meetings, weekly clinician case conferences and strategic planning to accommodate patient needs (provision of transport, easy access to facilities, appropriate written/verbal information). Intensive recruitment occurred in eligible inpatients from a major acute tertiary and rehabilitation hospitals in a local health district over seven months.


Of the 124 patients screened, 88 were not eligible, 32 declined, and 4 consented. Neither socio-demographic nor clinical characteristics (age, gender, clinical diagnosis, birthplace, cognitive function, length of stay or nutritional status) explained non-participation or ineligibility or refusals rates.


The advanced age and poor overall health status of this population necessitates alternative recruitment strategies to improve participation in clinical trials and improve generalisability for clinical practice.

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