Clinical research in severely ill or injured patients is required to improve healthcare but may be challenging to perform in practice. The aim of this study was to analyse barriers and challenges in the process of including critically ill patients in clinical studies.
Data from critically ill patients considered for inclusion in an observational study of venous thromboembolism in Norway were analysed. This included quantitative and qualitative information from the screening log, consent forms and research notes.
Among 279 eligible critically ill patients, 204 (73%) were omitted from the study due to challenges and barriers in the inclusion process. Reasons for omission were categorised as practical in 133 (65%), medical in 31 (15%), and legal or ethical in 40 (20%) of the patients. Among 70 included patients, 29 (41%) consents were from patients and 41 (59%) from their next of kin. Several challenges were described herein; these included whether patients were competent to give consent, and which next of kin that should represent the patient. Furthermore, some included patients were unable to recall what they have consented, and some appeared unable to separate research from treatment.
Barriers and challenges in the inclusion process led to the omission of near three out of four eligible patients. This analysis provided information about where the problem resides and may be solved. The majority of challenges among included patients were related to issues of autonomy and validity of consent.
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