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Creating a database of internet-based clinical trials to support a public-led research programme: A descriptive analysis

Brice, A., Price, A. & Burls, A. (2015). Creating a database of internet-based clinical trials to support a public-led research programme: A descriptive analysis. Digital Health, 1, doi: 10.1177/2055207615617854


Background: Online trials are rapidly growing in number, offering potential benefits but also methodological, ethical and social challenges. The International Network for Knowledge on Well-being (ThinkWell™) aims to increase public and patient participation in the prioritisation, design and conduct of research through the use of technologies.

Objective: We aim to provide a baseline understanding of the online trial environment, determining how many trials have used internet-based technologies; how they have been used; and how use has developed over time.

Methods: We searched a range of bibliographic databases to March 2015, with no date limits, supplemented by citation searching and references provided by experts in the field. Results were screened against inclusion and exclusion criteria, and included studies mapped against a number of key dimensions, with key themes developed iteratively throughout the process.

Results: We identified 1992 internet-based trials to March 2015. The number of reported studies increased substantially over the study timeframe. The largest number of trials were conducted in the USA (49.7%), followed by The Netherlands (10.2%); Australia (8.5%); the United Kingdom (5.8%); Sweden (4.6%); Canada (4%); and Germany (2.6%). South Korea (1.5%) has the highest number of reported trials for other continents. There is a predominance of interventions addressing core public health challenges including obesity (8.6%), smoking cessation (5.9%), alcohol abuse (7.7%) and physical activity (10.2%); in mental health issues such as depression (10.9%) and anxiety (5.6%); and conditions where self-management (16.6%) or monitoring (8.1%) is a major feature of care.

Conclusions: The results confirm an increase in the use of the internet in trials. Key themes have emerged from the analysis and further research will be undertaken in order to investigate how the data can be used to improve trial design and recruitment, and to build an open access resource to support the public-led research agenda.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Internet-based clinical trials, randomised controlled trial as topic, patient and public involvement, information science, information retrieval
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
SWORD Depositor:
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