Conducting a large, multi-site survey about patients' views on broad consent: challenges and solutions

Maureen E. Smith, Saskia C. Sanderson, Kyle B. Brothers, Melanie F. Myers, Jennifer McCormick, Sharon Aufox, Martha J. Shrubsole, Nanibaá A. Garrison, Nathaniel D. Mercaldo, Jonathan S. Schildcrout, Ellen Wright Clayton, Armand H.Matheny Antommaria, Melissa Basford, Murray Brilliant, John J. Connolly, Stephanie M. Fullerton, Carol R. Horowitz, Gail P. Jarvik, Dave Kaufman, Terri KitchnerRongling Li, Evette J. Ludman, Catherine McCarty, Valerie McManus, Sarah Stallings, Janet L. Williams, Ingrid A. Holm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: As biobanks play an increasing role in the genomic research that will lead to precision medicine, input from diverse and large populations of patients in a variety of health care settings will be important in order to successfully carry out such studies. One important topic is participants' views towards consent and data sharing, especially since the 2011 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), and subsequently the 2015 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) were issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). These notices required that participants consent to research uses of their de-identified tissue samples and most clinical data, and allowing such consent be obtained in a one-time, open-ended or "broad" fashion. Conducting a survey across multiple sites provides clear advantages to either a single site survey or using a large online database, and is a potentially powerful way of understanding the views of diverse populations on this topic. Methods: A workgroup of the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network, a national consortium of 9 sites (13 separate institutions, 11 clinical centers) supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) that combines DNA biorepositories with electronic medical record (EMR) systems for large-scale genetic research, conducted a survey to understand patients' views on consent, sample and data sharing for future research, biobank governance, data protection, and return of research results. Results: Working across 9 sites to design and conduct a national survey presented challenges in organization, meeting human subjects guidelines at each institution, and survey development and implementation. The challenges were met through a committee structure to address each aspect of the project with representatives from all sites. Each committee's output was integrated into the overall survey plan. A number of site-specific issues were successfully managed allowing the survey to be developed and implemented uniformly across 11 clinical centers. Conclusions: Conducting a survey across a number of institutions with different cultures and practices is a methodological and logistical challenge. With a clear infrastructure, collaborative attitudes, excellent lines of communication, and the right expertise, this can be accomplished successfully.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number162
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 24 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Informatics


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