Series: Pragmatic trials and real world evidence: Paper 3. Patient selection challenges and consequences

Katrien Oude Rengerink, Shona Kalkman, Susan Collier, Antonio Ciaglia, Sally D Worsley, Alison Lightbourne, Laurent Eckert, Rolf H H Groenwold, Diederick E Grobbee, Elaine A Irving,

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper addresses challenges of identifying, enrolling, and retaining participants in a trial conducted within a routine care setting. All patients who are potential candidates for the treatments in routine clinical practice should be considered eligible for a pragmatic trial. To ensure generalizability, the recruited sample should have a similar distribution of the treatment effect modifiers as the target population. In practice, this can be best achieved by including—within the selected sites—all patients without further selection. If relevant heterogeneity between subgroups is expected, increasing the relative proportion of the subgroup of patients in the heterogeneous trial could be considered (oversampling) or a separate trial in this subgroup can be planned. Selection will nevertheless occur. Low enrollment and loss to follow-up can introduce selection and can jeopardize validity as well as generalizability. Pragmatic trials are conducted in clinical practice rather than in a dedicated research setting, which could reduce recruitment rates. However, if a trial poses a minimal burden to the physician and the patient and routine clinical practice is maximally adhered to, the participation rate may be high and loss to follow-up will not be a specific problem for pragmatic trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • Enrollment
  • Participant
  • Pragmatic trial
  • Real-world evidence
  • Recruitment
  • Representativeness


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