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Open Access Open Badges Correspondence

Challenges and strategies in the administration of a population based mortality follow-back survey design

Beverley Lawson*, Kristine Van Aarsen and Frederick Burge

Author Affiliations

Department of Family Medicine, Dalhousie University, 5909 Veterans Memorial Lane, Abbie J. Lane Building, 8th Fl, Halifax, NS B3H 2E2, Canada

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BMC Palliative Care 2013, 12:28  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-12-28

Published: 6 August 2013


Population-based mortality follow-back survey designs have been used to collect information concerning end-of-life care from bereaved family members in several countries. In Canada, this design was recently employed to gather population-based information about the end-of-life care experience among adults in Nova Scotia as perceived by the decedent's family. In this article we describe challenges that emerged during the implementation of the study design and discuss resolutions strategies to help overcome them. Challenges encountered included the inability to directly contact potential participants, difficulties ascertaining eligibility, mailing strategy complications and the overall effect of these issues on response rate and subsequent sample size. Although not all challenges were amenable to resolution, strategies implemented proved beneficial to the overall process and resulted in surpassing the targeted sample size. The inability to directly contact potential participants is an increasing reality and limitations associated with this process best acknowledged during study development. Future studies should also consider addressing participant concerns pertaining to their eligibility and use of a more cost effective mailing strategy.