Confounding factors in using upward feedback to assess the quality of medical training: a systematic review
OBJECTIVE To increase the overall 2007 response rate of the National Physician Survey (NPS) from the survey's 2004 rate of response with the implementation of various methodologic strategies. DESIGN Physicians were stratified to receive either a long version (12 pages) or a short version (6 pages) of the survey (38% and 62%, respectively). Mixed modes of contact were used-58% were contacted by e-mail and 42% by regular mail-with multiple modes of contact attempted for nonrespondents. The self-administered, confidential surveys were distributed in either English or French. Medical residents and students received e-mail surveys only and were offered a substantial monetary lottery incentive for completing their surveys. A professional communications firm assisted in marketing the survey and delivered advance notification of its impending distribution. SETTING Canada. PARTICIPANTS A total of 62 441 practising physicians, 2627 second-year medical residents, and 9162 medical students in Canada. RESULTS Of the practising physicians group, 60 811 participants were eligible and 19 239 replied, for an overall 2007 study response rate of 31.64% (compared with 35.85% in 2004). No difference in rate of response was found between the longer and shorter versions of the survey. If contacted by regular mail, the response rate was 34.1%; the e-mail group had a response rate of 29.9%. Medical student and resident response rates were 30.8% and 27.9%, respectively (compared with 31.2% and 35.6% in 2004). CONCLUSION Despite shortening the questionnaires, contacting more physicians by e-mail, and enhancing marketing and follow-up, the 2007 NPS response rate for practising physicians did not surpass the 2004 NPS response rate. Offering a monetary lottery incentive to medical residents and students was also unsuccessful in increasing their response rates. The role of surveys in gathering information from physicians and physicians-in-training remains problematic. Researchers need to investigate alternative strategies for achieving higher rates of response.