Allowing Physicians to Choose the Value of Compensation for Participation in a Web-Based Survey: Randomized Controlled Trial

J Med Internet Res. 2015 Jul 29;17(7):e189. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3898.


Background: Survey response rates among physicians are declining, and determining an appropriate level of compensation to motivate participation poses a major challenge.

Objective: To estimate the effect of permitting intensive care physicians to select their preferred level of compensation for completing a short Web-based survey on physician (1) response rate, (2) survey completion rate, (3) time to response, and (4) time spent completing the survey.

Methods: A total of 1850 US intensivists from an existing database were randomized to receive a survey invitation email with or without an incentive available to the first 100 respondents. The incentive could be instantly redeemed for an amount chosen by the respondent, up to a maximum of US $50.

Results: The overall response rate was 35.90% (630/1755). Among the 35.4% (111/314) of eligible participants choosing the incentive, 80.2% (89/111) selected the maximum value. Among intensivists offered an incentive, the response was 6.0% higher (95% CI 1.5-10.5, P=.01), survey completion was marginally greater (807/859, 94.0% vs 892/991, 90.0%; P=.06), and the median number of days to survey response was shorter (0.8, interquartile range [IQR] 0.2-14.4 vs 6.6, IQR 0.3-22.3; P=.001), with no difference in time spent completing the survey.

Conclusions: Permitting intensive care physicians to determine compensation level for completing a short Web-based survey modestly increased response rate and substantially decreased response time without decreasing the time spent on survey completion.

Keywords: cash; data collection; electronic questionnaire; monetary incentives; physicians; response rate; survey design.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Compensation and Redress*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Physicians*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / economics*
  • Telemedicine