The aim of this study was to use Orsmond and Cohn’s feasibility framework to evaluate the transition of an ongoing qualitative research study using focus groups from in-person to online using a videoconferencing platform. The evaluation was conducted in three primary areas: recruitment capability, data collection procedures, and evaluation of relevant resources
Methods: At the start of the qualitative study, participants were recruited for in-person focus groups from January-March 2020. Once the lockdowns were implemented, participants were recruited for online focus groups from March-April 2020. Recruitment efforts for each focus group conducted measured the number of times potential participants were contacted by phone call and text to the total number of potential participants contacted. Data collection procedures were documented by the research team and measured through various counts. To estimate whether there were differences in the recruitment efforts and attendance records before and during the county-wide lockdown, independent sample t-tests were conducted. The resources needed for this transition including the administrative capacity, the space, technology, and funds necessary to support the research study were also recorded. Sample characteristics were extracted from administrative and survey data. To estimate the differences in the sample characteristics, recruitment efforts and the length of the focus groups before and during the lockdown, independent sample t-tests or proportion tests were conducted.
Findings: The sociodemographic characteristics (age, sex, race/ethnicity, marital status, employment status, and school enrollment) of participants pre-lockdown and during the lockdown were similar between the two groups with most participants identifying as female, Black, single, unemployed. The average number of participants recruited, confirmed, and attended per focus group; along with the total number of contact attempts remained similar before and during the lockdown. The length of the focus groups before and during the lockdown also remained similar. The in-person focus groups did require more financial resources for their successful execution than the online focus groups.
Conclusion and Implications: Sustaining a qualitative research study focused on low-income, racial/ethnic minorities is feasible by transitioning the study from in-person to online using a video conferencing platform. This approach should be considered from the onset of qualitative research studies to increase reach to low-income, racial/ethnic minority population to facilitate their access to research studies. This important step helps to give hard-to-reach populations a voice in the literature which in turn influences interventions, programs, and policies.