Telephone interviews and online questionnaires can be used to improve neurodevelopmental follow-up rates

BMC Res Notes. 2014 Apr 8;7:219. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-7-219.


Background: Maximising response rates to neurodevelopmental follow-up is a key challenge for paediatric researchers. We have investigated the use of telephone interviews and online questionnaires to improve response rates, reduce non-response bias, maintain data completeness and produce unbiased outcomes compared with postal questionnaires when assessing neurodevelopmental outcomes at 2 years.

Methods: A prospective cohort study of babies born ≥32 weeks gestation. Neurodevelopmental outcomes were assessed at 2 years of age using a parent questionnaire completed via post, telephone or online. Relative Risks with 95% confidence intervals (RR; 95% CI) were calculated to identify participant characteristics associated with non-response and questionnaire response mode (postal vs. telephone/online). The proportion of missing data and prevalence of adverse outcomes was compared between response modes using generalized linear models.

Results: Offering telephone/online questionnaires increased the study response rate from 55% to 60%. Telephone/online responders were more likely to be non-white (RR 1.6; [95% CI 1.1, 2.4]), non-English speaking (1.6; [1.0, 2.6]) or have a multiple birth (1.6; [1.1, 2.3]) than postal responders. There were no significant differences in the prevalence of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes between those who responded via post vs. telephone/online (1.1; [0.9, 1.4]). Where parents attempted all questionnaire sections, there were no significant differences in the proportion of missing data between response modes.

Conclusions: Where there is sufficient technology and resources, offering telephone interviews and online questionnaires can enhance response rates and improve sample representation to neurodevelopmental follow-up, whilst maintaining data completeness and unbiased outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data*
  • Telephone / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Kingdom