Differential effects of pre and post-payment on neurologists' response rates to a postal survey

BMC Neurol. 2010 Oct 25;10:100. doi: 10.1186/1471-2377-10-100.


Background: Monetary incentives are an effective way of increasing response rates to surveys, though they are generally less effective in physicians, and are more effective when the incentive is paid up-front rather than when made conditional on completion.

Methods: In this study we examine the effectiveness of pre- and post-completion incentives on the response rates of all the neurologists in the UK to a survey about conversion disorder, using a cluster randomised controlled design. A postal survey was sent to all practicing consultant neurologists, in two rounds, including either a book token, the promise of a book token, or nothing at all.

Results: Three hundred and fifty-one of 591 eligible neurologists completed the survey, for a response rate of 59%. While the post-completion incentive exerted no discernible influence on response rates, a pre-completion incentive did, with an odds-ratio of 2.1 (95% confidence interval 1.5-3.0).

Conclusions: We conclude that neurologists, in the UK at least, may be influenced to respond to a postal survey by a pre-payment incentive but are unaffected by a promised reward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Neurology* / economics
  • Physicians / economics
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Reward
  • Surveys and Questionnaires* / economics