Randomized trial of 5 dollars versus 10 dollars monetary incentives, envelope size, and candy to increase physician response rates to mailed questionnaires.
BACKGROUND: The validity of the results of mailed surveys is often threatened by nonresponse bias, which is made more likely when response rates are low. However, the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of several strategies to increase response rates are uncertain. OBJECTIVES: To assess three strategies to increase response rates to mailed physician surveys: including a 10 dollars versus a 5 dollars cash incentive in the initial mailing, including a mint candy or not, and using a large versus small outgoing envelope. RESEARCH DESIGN AND SUBJECTS: Using a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design, a randomized trial of these strategies was conducted in a survey of 1200 physicians randomly selected from the American Medical Association's Master File. RESULTS: Including a 10 dollars incentive yielded a significantly higher response rate (60.5% vs. 52.8%) (P = 0.009). The mailing and incentive costs per completed response were 12.24 dollars (95% CI, 11.75 dollars, 13.64 dollars) in the 5 dollars group and 18.48 dollars (95% CI, 17.77 dollars, 20.69 dollars) in the 10 dollars group. Each additional response obtained in the 10 dollars group came at an incremental cost of 61.26 dollars (95% CI, 36.98 dollars, 200.80 dollars). Neither inclusion of a mint nor use of a large envelope influenced the response rate. CONCLUSIONS: Investigators may increase response rates by including more money in the initial questionnaire packet, but there may be diminishing returns to serial increments in incentives greater than 5 dollars. Including smaller incentives in more questionnaires may maximize total responses.
Halpern, SD; Ubel, PA; Berlin, JA; Asch, DA
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