A Systematic Review of Strategies to Enhance Response Rates and Representativeness of Patient Experience Surveys

Med Care. 2022 Dec 1;60(12):910-918. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001784. Epub 2022 Oct 19.


Background: Data from surveys of patient care experiences are a cornerstone of public reporting and pay-for-performance initiatives. Recently, increasing concerns have been raised about survey response rates and how to promote equity by ensuring that responses represent the perspectives of all patients.

Objective: Review evidence on survey administration strategies to improve response rates and representativeness of patient surveys.

Research design: Systematic review adhering to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines.

Study selection: Forty peer-reviewed randomized experiments of administration protocols for patient experience surveys.

Results: Mail administration with telephone follow-up provides a median response rate benefit of 13% compared with mail-only or telephone-only. While surveys administered only by web typically result in lower response rates than those administered by mail or telephone (median difference in response rate: -21%, range: -44%, 0%), the limited evidence for a sequential web-mail-telephone mode suggests a potential response rate benefit over sequential mail-telephone (median: 4%, range: 2%, 5%). Telephone-only and sequential mixed modes including telephone may yield better representation across patient subgroups by age, insurance type, and race/ethnicity. Monetary incentives are associated with large increases in response rates (median increase: 12%, range: 7%, 20%).

Conclusions: Sequential mixed-mode administration yields higher patient survey response rates than a single mode. Including telephone in sequential mixed-mode administration improves response among those with historically lower response rates; including web in mixed-mode administration may increase response at lower cost. Other promising strategies to improve response rates include in-person survey administration during hospital discharge, incentives, minimizing survey language complexity, and prenotification before survey administration.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Postal Service*
  • Reimbursement, Incentive*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone