Allowing physicians to choose the value of compensation for participation in a web-based survey: Randomized controlled trial

Alison E. Turnbull, Cristi L. O'Connor, Bryan Lau, Scott D. Halpern, Dale M. Needham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere189
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015



  • Cash
  • Data collection
  • Electronic questionnaire
  • Monetary incentives
  • Physicians
  • Response rate
  • Survey design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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