Let's talk virtual! Online focus group facilitation for the modern researcher

Matthew Halliday, Deanna Mill, Jacinta Johnson, Kenneth Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Focus group discussions typically involve face-to-face facilitation. There is growing interest in utilising digital technologies to facilitate aspects of focus group research. To date, no study in the pharmacy profession has comprehensively described and evaluated a fully virtual process to focus group research, from recruitment to reimbursement. Objective(s): This study aims to describe an entirely online approach to: recruiting for and facilitating virtual focus group discussions, and reimbursement of participants within the pharmacy profession. Specifically, our objectives were to identify 1) the dropout rate, 2) the geographic diversity of focus group participants, and 3) the occurrence of technological issues. Method: Traditional face-to-face focus group recruitment and facilitation methods were adapted, pre-tested, and conducted using online platforms for advertising, participant expressions of interest, participant consent, focus group facilitation, and participant reimbursement. Populations of interest included community pharmacists, specialty practice pharmacists, hospital pharmacists, and pharmacy assistants and technicians across Australia. Results: Of the 153 potential participants who either completed an expression of interest to participate (135/153) or agreed to participate after direct contact (18/153), 59 confirmed that they would attend the focus group discussion (39%); 49 of the 59 (dropout rate: 17%) participated in one of eight focus groups. Collectively, there was representation from all States and Territories in Australia, as well as representation in each of the populations of interest. Three of 49 participants (6%) experienced minor technological issues during the process; no participant encountered major technological issues that precluded successful participation. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that an entirely online approach to focus group methodology is possible, has the potential to recruit demographically and geographically-diverse participants with low dropout rates, and can be successfully conducted with minimal technological issues. Despite the recent COVID-19 pandemic making physical focus group facilitation untenable, this fully-online approach enables research to be completed uninterrupted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2145-2150
Number of pages6
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number12
Early online date6 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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