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Open Access Research article

Does an offer for a free on-line continuing medical education (CME) activity increase physician survey response rate? A randomized trial

Anthony J Viera1* and Teresa Edwards2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

2 Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:129  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-129

Published: 7 March 2012

Abstract

Background

Achieving a high response rate in a physician survey is challenging. Monetary incentives increase response rates but obviously add cost to a survey project. We wondered whether an offer of a free continuing medical education (CME) activity would be effective in improving survey response rate.

Results

As part of a survey of a national sample of physicians, we randomized half to an offer for a free on-line CME activity upon completion of a web-based survey and the other half to no such offer. We compared response rates between the groups. A total of 1214 out of 8477 potentially eligible physicians responded to our survey, for an overall response rate of 14.3%. The response rate among the control group (no offer of CME credit) was 16.6%, while among those offered the CME opportunity, the response rate was 12.0% (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions

An offer for a free on-line CME activity did not improve physician survey response rate. On the contrary, the offer for a free CME activity actually appeared to worsen the response rate.