Physician response rates to a mail survey by specialty and timing of incentive

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Background Historically, achieving a high response rate on physician surveys has been a challenging task. Given such concerns, understanding research strategies that facilitate adequate response rates is important. Primary care physician responses to a mail survey on smoking cessation are summarized by physician specialty and timing of incentive. Methods A stratified random-sample design, stratified by patient populations - adults, adolescents, and pregnant women - was used. The sampling frame included New Jersey internists, general practitioners, family physicians, pediatricians, and obstetrician-gynecologists. A total of 2100 physicians, 700 physicians from each patient strata, were sampled and mailed a smoking-cessation survey in summer 2002. The sample was randomized by incentive timing: Half received the incentive (i.e., $25 gift card) with the first survey mailing, and half received the incentive on receipt of their completed survey. Results The promised-incentive group achieved a significantly lower response rate (56%) compared with the up-front-incentive group (71.5%). Response rates by medical specialty varied overall and within incentive groups. The difference between the incentive groups was greatest among obstetrician-gynecologists (i.e., 20.2 percentage points) and was least among pediatricians (i.e., 5.8 percentage points). Conclusions Physician response rates to mail surveys are greatly improved, especially among certain medical specialties, by using up-front incentives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-236
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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