Message From Mary: A Covid Research Question For You To Answer

Message From Mary: A Covid Research Question For You To Answer

Even in the midst of the hardship and risk that COVID imposes on our communities and our states, we have to continue to recognize other, perhaps less dramatic, epidemics.  Opioid use disorder (OUD) among people young and old, rural and urban, insured and not insured, continues its quiet rampage throughout every state.  Concept Systems, Inc. (CSI) is working with Delaware’s Behavioral Health Consortium to stem the tide of this crisis in such difficult times.  Some Group Concept Mapping (GCM) practice colleagues are also tackling the issue. Here’s the question, and my preliminary answer.  Do you have a suggestion for our colleague to consider?

The question:

“I am using group concept mapping to develop an intervention to increase uptake of medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder in Washington, DC. We completed the formative research for the study and set up groupwisdom™ about a month or two before the COVID-19 shutdown. Our university has restricted in-person data collection activities for another semester.

We learned during GCM training that GCM could be completed remotely using groupwisdom™.  However, since our participants are people who use opioids, we thought it would be best to conduct the sort and rate phase of the study in-person.

Do you have any suggestions, or have you heard from other investigators who have completed GCM projects during COVID? We would like to get a sense of what others are doing, especially those who work with more technology challenged or marginalized groups.”

Mary’s answer:

I believe other GCM researchers are planning to use GCM in some version of in-person, but their populations are less at risk, and more able to participate with all precautions taken.  I think you have a specific issue related to the status of your participants at any given time.

I have been writing an occasional “Message from Mary” on our websites and our communications, and I will ask this question, to see if we get any feedback from other researchers about potential solutions.  In the meantime, I can suggest only a few.  These all assume that your folks will not be able or willing to use the groupwisdom™ interface, but some participants might be able, given the right support, such as personal coaching that you or a team member might do when it’s possible.

Some options:

  • Contact the participants individually if possible, and ask if they can do the tasks by themselves or with a trusted person.  If so, you can mail the paper versions of sorting, rating, and demographics to them.  Arrange in advance to pick up the results, or provide a drop off place that is easy for them to access.
  • Enlist the help of the participants’ providers—MAT sources, counselors, if possible, to distribute the paper version of the task.  What other networks or help structures might they be connected to?  Would they be able to do the tasks at a service location? Would a staff person be able to help by acting as a “scribe”?
  • Rethink your design, and ask the participants to do only the ratings and demographics to reduce the burden of participation.
    • You can send these questionnaires to them as a form, or have them pick it up at certain locations that they would visit.  Think about how to collect the data, so using places they visit would probably be most useful.
    • Recruit a group of people, who may include former users, advocates, helping staff, research team, and so on, to do the sorting.  This is an adaptation of the process, and the map you get may differ from the map a group of people with OUD, but it will certainly allow you to organize the input appropriately.  You can then overlay the ratings from active consumers on the map to assess the variables and their weight.”

Your feedback:

What do you think?  How might you gather enough participant input in this context on this question?  Send your thoughts to me at

Thanks for all you are doing.


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