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Wisk LE, Buhr RG. Rapid deployment of a community engagement study and educational trial via social media: implementation of the UC-COVID study. Trials. 2021 Aug 2; 22(1):513.
BACKGROUND: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated adoption of scarce resource allocation (SRA) policies, we sought to rapidly deploy a novel survey to ascertain community values and preferences for SRA and to test the utility of a brief intervention to improve knowledge of and values alignment with a new SRA policy. Given social distancing and precipitous evolution of the pandemic, Internet-enabled recruitment was deemed the best method to engage a community-based sample. We quantify the efficiency and acceptability of this Internet-based recruitment for engaging a trial cohort and describe the approach used for implementing a health-related trial entirely online using off-the-shelf tools. METHODS: We recruited 1971 adult participants ( 18 years) via engagement with community partners and organizations and outreach through direct and social media messaging. We quantified response rate and participant characteristics of our sample, examine sample representativeness, and evaluate potential non-response bias. RESULTS: Recruitment was similarly derived from direct referral from partner organizations and broader social media based outreach, with extremely low study entry from organic (non-invited) search activity. Of social media platforms, Facebook was the highest yield recruitment source. Bot activity was present but minimal and identifiable through meta-data and engagement behavior. Recruited participants differed from broader populations in terms of sex, ethnicity, and education, but had similar prevalence of chronic conditions. Retention was satisfactory, with entrance into the first follow-up survey for 61% of those invited. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that rapid recruitment into a longitudinal intervention trial via social media is feasible, efficient, and acceptable. Recruitment in conjunction with community partners representing target populations, and with outreach across multiple platforms, is recommended to optimize sample size and diversity. Trial implementation, engagement tracking, and retention are feasible with off-the-shelf tools using preexisting platforms. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04373135 . Registered on May 4, 2020.