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Reasons for low physician surveys response rates - and what you can do about it

Posted on 7/8/2020 by Elizabeth in category: survey software articles

Healthcare survey research is an essential tool for collecting data about healthcare delivery, overall patient or organization issues, and service use relating to the quality of care. Physicians are unfortunately a group that has a low response rate to surveys.

Some research looking at physician payment plans involved an online survey deployed regarding medical billing practices. A little over 900 physicians from a variety of medical specialties received the survey. The main method for the doctors to complete the survey was through the Internet through established and well-known company survey-software.

The overall response rate to this online survey software research was 35.0%, and the response rates varied by specialty:

46.6% Neurosurgery/Neurology
42.9% Internal medicine
29.6% General surgery
29.2% Pediatrics
27.1% Psychiatry

Those who didn't respond to the survey noted the main reasons for not responding were survey burden and lack of time.

So, what can you do to up your response rate to your physician survey tool, particularly when you know that lack of time and burden are two common reasons for reduced survey response rates?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Try Mixed-Mode Surveys

Certain studies conducted recently suggest using a mixed-mode survey method where you combine mail surveys with Internet surveys in the physician population that achieves the highest response rates. The research compared two different mixed-mode surveys and found a higher response rate to a mailed survey that's followed by online follow-up versus an online survey followed by mail follow-up. The faster method, however, was the online/mail method, and in today’s digital and fast-paced world, it’s the preferred survey method deployment choice.

2. Try Multiple Methods of Response Encouragement

Try multiple methods for encouraging survey tool response such as:

- Multiple reminders
- Individual personalized email invitations
- Incentives (i.e. gift certificates)

It’s also a smart idea to implement a mobile physician survey, as doctors can complete it on-the-go, or while they have downtime waiting in line, for example. Be sure to remind the physicians, the benefits of finishing their survey to the end.

3. Reduce the Survey Length

You'll likely have a better response rate with a 5-minute survey than you would if your survey takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Therefore, try shortening up your surveys. You should also install a survey completion progress bar, so that the physician knows how far along they are, and how much longer there is to finish it.

4. Decrease Survey Question Complexity

Be careful of making your surveys too complex. Ask your respondents straight-forward questions on your survey tool that will be simple to answer, rather than having them undergo multiple tasks such as having them visit a site and then providing their feedback.

You might have to try out different online survey methods and go through trial and error before you find that perfect survey method strategies involving length, deployment choice, branding, question complexity, and more. Once you do, you’ll see how valuable online survey software and physician surveys can be for not only your healthcare organization, but most importantly, your patients.

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