Objectives: To examine the quality of response rate reporting and to identify methodological factors influencing response rates in published patient satisfaction studies.
Design: Examination and analysis of 210 studies from 200 papers published in 1994 in 141 different health journals. Papers were located in the following databases: British Nursing Index, CINAHL, EMBASE, MedLine, Popline, and PsycLIT.
Main measures: Reported and calculated response rates, collection and recruitment procedures of published studies, and type of instruments used for data collection.
Results: Forty-eight per cent of studies reported a response rate. The mean response rate was 72.1%. There was no association between response rate and the type of instrument used for data collection. Studies which used a face-to-face approach to either subject recruitment (mean response rate, 76.7%) or data collection (mean response rate, 76.9%) were associated with significantly higher response rates than those in which subjects were recruited by mail (mean response rate, 66.5%) or data were collected by mail (mean response rate, 67%). Response rate was not related to questionnaire length.
Conclusion: Patient satisfaction studies generally show poor awareness of the importance of methodological issues relevant to response rate. Far more attention to this aspect is needed if findings in this field are to be accepted as valid and useful.