Methodologies for improving response rates in surveys of physicians: a systematic review

Eval Health Prof. 2007 Dec;30(4):303-21. doi: 10.1177/0163278707307899.


Although physician surveys are an important tool in health services and policy research, they are often characterized by low response rates. The authors conducted a systematic review of 66 published reports of efforts to improve response rates to physician surveys. Two general strategies were explored in this literature: incentive and design-based approaches. Even small financial incentives were found to be effective in improving physician response. Token nonmonetary incentives were much less effective. In terms of design strategies, postal and telephone strategies have generally been more successful than have fax or Web-based approaches, with evidence also supporting use of mixed-mode surveys in this population. In addition, use of first-class stamps on return envelopes and questionnaires designed to be brief, personalized, and endorsed by legitimizing professional associations were also more likely to be successful. Researchers should continue to implement design strategies that have been documented to improve the survey response of physicians.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Research Design
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards