Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Maximising response to postal questionnaires – A systematic review of randomised trials in health research

By Rachel Anne Nakash, Jane Hutton, Ellen C. Jørstad-Stein, Simon Gates and S. E. (Sallie E.) Lamb

Abstract

Background\ud Postal self-completion questionnaires offer one of the least expensive modes of collecting patient based outcomes in health care research. The purpose of this review is to assess the efficacy of methods of increasing response to postal questionnaires in health care studies on patient populations.\ud \ud Methods\ud The following databases were searched: Medline, Embase, CENTRAL, CDSR, PsycINFO, NRR and ZETOC. Reference lists of relevant reviews and relevant journals were hand searched. Inclusion criteria were randomised trials of strategies to improve questionnaire response in health care research on patient populations. Response rate was defined as the percentage of questionnaires returned after all follow-up efforts. Study quality was assessed by two independent reviewers. The Mantel-Haenszel method was used to calculate the pooled odds ratios.\ud \ud Results\ud Thirteen studies reporting fifteen trials were included. Implementation of reminder letters and telephone contact had the most significant effect on response rates (odds ratio 3.7, 95% confidence interval 2.30 to 5.97 p = <0.00001). Shorter questionnaires also improved response rates to a lesser degree (odds ratio 1.4, 95% confidence interval 1.19 to 1.54). No evidence was found that incentives, re-ordering of questions or including an information brochure with the questionnaire confer any additional advantage.\ud \ud Conclusion\ud Implementing repeat mailing strategies and/or telephone reminders may improve response to postal questionnaires in health care research. Making the questionnaire shorter may also improve response rates. There is a lack of evidence to suggest that incentives are useful. In the context of health care research all strategies to improve response to postal questionnaires require further evaluation.\ud \u

Topics: R1
Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:587

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (2002). AE: Improving the response rates to questionnaires. BMJ doi
  2. (1997). AM: Cost effectiveness of a prize draw on response to a postal questionnaire: results of a randomised trial among orthopaedic outpatients in Edinburgh. doi
  3. BioMail Medline Search version 0.72pre [http://biomail.source forge.net/biomail].
  4. (1997). C: A randomized trial of the impact of telephone and recorded delivery reminders on the response rate to research questionnaires. doi
  5. (2004). Demark-Wahnefried W: No Difference in Response Rate to a Mailed Survey among Prostate Cancer Survivors Using Conditional versus Unconditional Incentives. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev doi
  6. (2001). Design and use of questionnaires: a review of best practice applicable to surveys of health service staff and patients. Health Technol Assess doi
  7. (2000). Does length of questionnaire matter? A randomised trial of response rates to a mailed questionnaire. J Health Serv Res Policy
  8. (1987). Factors Affecting Response Rates to Mailed Questionnaires: A Comprehensive Literature review. doi
  9. (1978). Factors Affecting Response Rates to Mailed Questionnaires: A Quantitative Analysis of the Published Literature. American Sociological Review doi
  10. (2004). Follow-up by mail in clinical trials: does questionnaire length matter? Control Clin Trials doi
  11. (1975). Foundations of behavioral research. Second edition.
  12. (2003). From the generic to the condition-specific?: Instrument order effects in Quality of Life Assessment. Med Care doi
  13. (2002). Further Analyses Would Make the Review More Helpful - Rapid Response to Edwards et al Increasing Response Rates to Postal Questionnaires: Systematic Review. BMJ doi
  14. (2003). GG: Influence of follow-up methodology and completeness on apparent clinical outcome of fundoplication. doi
  15. (2000). Haynes RB: Evidence-based medicine: how to practice and teach EBM.
  16. (2002). I: Increasing response rates to postal questionnaires: systematic review. BMJ doi
  17. (2000). KC: Effects on subject response of information brochures and small cash incentives in a mail-based case-control study. Ann Epidemiol doi
  18. (1998). Knipschild PG: The Delphi list: a criteria list for quality assessment of randomised clinical trials for conducting systematic reviews developed by Delphi consensus. doi
  19. (1988). Mail Survey Response Rate: A MetaAnalysis of Selected Techniques for Inducing Response. Public Opinion Quarterly doi
  20. (1975). Mail Surveys and Response Rates: A Literature Review. doi
  21. (1996). NF: A randomized trial of the total design method for the postal followup of women in a cancer prevention trial. doi
  22. (1996). Ovadia C: Patient surveys in general practice: a randomised trial of an instant lottery ticket to increase return rate. Aust Fam Physician
  23. (2003). Oxman AD: Assessment of Study Quality. Cochrane Reviewers' Handbook In: The Cochrane Library
  24. (1997). PA: A randomised comparison of the EuroQol and Short Form-36 after stroke. United Kingdom collaborators in the International Stroke Trial. BMJ doi
  25. (1979). PG: Techniques to increase the response rate in follow-up studies: results of a pilot test. doi
  26. (2002). PJ: Do postage-stamps increase response rates to postal surveys? A randomized controlled trial. doi
  27. (2003). PR: Does questionnaire structure influence response in postal surveys? doi
  28. (2003). Properties of the Picker Patient Experience questionnaire in a randomised controlled trial of long versus short form survey instruments. doi
  29. (1999). Quantitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences.
  30. (1997). Research Methods in Health. doi
  31. (2002). Sample size slippages in randomised trials: exclusions and the lost and wayward. Lancet doi
  32. (1995). Saracci R: Principles of exposure measurement in epidemiology. doi
  33. (2002). Telephone reminders are a cost effective way to improve responses in postal health surveys. doi
  34. The Chambers Dictionary. Edited by:
  35. (1999). The effects of lottery incentive and length of questionnaire on health survey response rates: a randomized study. doi
  36. (2002). Thompson SG: Quantifying heterogeneity in a metaanalysis. Stat Med
  37. Tonascia S: Clinical Trials: Design, Conduct and Analysis. doi
  38. (1984). Why do we need some large, simple randomised trials? Stat Med doi
  39. (2000). WR: Improving return rates for healthcare outcome. Psychol Rep doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.