Instant Messaging: an Innovative Way to Recruit Primary Care Providers for Qualitative Research

  • Justina WuEmail author
  • Eleanor T. Lewis
  • Paul G. Barnett
  • Andrea L. Nevedal
Concise Research Report


Recruiting primary care providers (PCPs) for participation in health services research is a major challenge. PCPs report barriers such as time constraints 13, low interest or buy-in for the research topic 3, and inadequate rapport with researchers 2. Busy PCPs are overloaded with alerts and reminders 4, and hard to reach via phone 5 or email, resulting in asynchronous communication and lost, forgotten, or ignored messages. In integrated health care systems such as the Veterans Health Administration (VA), organization-wide instant messaging (IM) allows real-time communication between employees. We describe a novel use of IM to increase PCP participation in interviews for health services research.


As part of a mixed-methods study, we emailed eligible VA PCPs between June 2017 and September 2018 inviting them to participate in a semi-structured telephone interview about their use of lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging for managing uncomplicated, acute low-back...



We are grateful to the primary care providers who participated in this study and shared their frontline experiences with us. We acknowledge Josephine Jacobs, Jeanie Lo, Samantha Illarmo, Roger Chou, Jeffrey Jarvik, Melanie Jeske, Derek Boothroyd, , Lucile Burgo, Ajo John, Friedhelm Sandbrink, Kate Stanitski, and Suzanne Tharin for their important contributions to the larger study.

Funding Information

This work was financially supported by an Investigator Initiated Research grant no. 15-450 from the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Program.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The Stanford Institutional Review Board approved this study modification (no. 38033).


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine (This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Innovation to ImplementationVA Palo Alto Healthcare SystemMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Program Evaluation and Resource CenterVA Office of Mental Health and Suicide PreventionMenlo ParkUSA
  3. 3.Health Economics Resource CenterVA Palo Alto Healthcare SystemMenlo ParkUSA

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