Rising to the challenge of long-term follow up research in burns: reducing attrition.

Ms Martha Druery1, Associate Professor Peter Newcombe2, Doctor Cate Cameron3, Professor Jeffrey  Lipman1

1Burns Trauma and Critical Care Research Centre, UQ, Brisbane, Australia, 2School of Psychology, UQ, Brisbane, Australia, 3Jamieson Trauma Institute, RBWH, Brisbane, Australia


It is now well established that prospective long-term burns outcome research is essential for several reasons, including determining the extent to which people recover after a serious burn injury and as a foundation for optimising patient care and quality improvement. Identifying determinants and barriers to acceptable and optimal burns outcomes is central to developing targeted interventions, programs and models of care from all perspectives, whether it be that of the burns survivor, their family, the health service provider or society in general. Interventions and models of care are located within finite health budgets requiring cost-effectiveness analyses to ensure fair access to positive health outcomes and to deliver health services in the most cost-containing way possible, justifying the high financial cost of burn care services.

However, it is equally well established that longitudinal health research presents data retention challenges, particularly for the burns population. Attrition is recognized as the most critical threat for study bias in longitudinal follow up studies, due to the potential for participants who remained in the study to differ from those who did not. Follow up burns cohort studies typically report an attrition rate in the vicinity of 40% at 6 months post-injury. In this paper, the authors report on the methodology of their current Quality of Life Outcomes study, interviewing 274 burns inpatients during initial admission, 3-months, 6-months and 12-months post-injury with a final retention rate of 72%. Methodological procedures and pitfalls will be presented to assist other clinicians or researchers to establish tools for successful data retention practices.


Martha Druery is currently enrolled in a Research Higher Degree at UQ, having previously worked as a Social Work Specialist in Intensive Care and Burns across adult and paediatric settings since 1997. She remains actively involved in the burns field with first author publications, private practice adjustment to injury counselling services and volunteer work as a Psychosocial Clinical Advisor with Burnslife, in Queensland. Her PhD is investigating the quantitative relationship between burns outcomes and domains such as injury, treatment, personal and social factors.

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