The Development of an Interactive Voice Response Survey for Noncommunicable Disease Risk Factor Estimation: Technical Assessment and Cognitive Testing

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Background: The rise in mobile phone ownership in low-And middle-income countries (LMICs) presents an opportunity to transform existing data collection and surveillance methods. Administering surveys via interactive voice response (IVR) technology-A mobile phone survey (MPS) method-has potential to expand the current surveillance coverage and data collection, but formative work to contextualize the survey for LMIC deployment is needed. Objective: The primary objectives of this study were to (1) cognitively test and identify challenging questions in a noncommunicable disease (NCD) risk factor questionnaire administered via an IVR platform and (2) assess the usability of the IVR platform. Methods: We conducted two rounds of pilot testing the IVR survey in Baltimore, MD. Participants were included in the study if they identified as being from an LMIC. The first round included individual interviews to cognitively test the participant's understanding of the questions. In the second round, participants unique from those in round 1 were placed in focus groups and were asked to comment on the usability of the IVR platform. Results: A total of 12 participants from LMICs were cognitively tested in round 1 to assess their understanding and comprehension of questions in an IVR-Administered survey. Overall, the participants found that the majority of the questions were easy to understand and did not have difficulty recording most answers. The most frequent recommendation was to use country-specific examples and units of measurement. In round 2, a separate set of 12 participants assessed the usability of the IVR platform. Overall, participants felt that the length of the survey was appropriate (average: 18 min and 31 s), but the majority reported fatigue in answering questions that had a similar question structure. Almost all participants commented that they thought an IVR survey would lead to more honest, accurate responses than face-To-face questionnaires, especially for sensitive topics. Conclusions: Overall, the participants indicated a clear comprehension of the IVR-Administered questionnaire and that the IVR platform was user-friendly. Formative research and cognitive testing of the questionnaire is needed for further adaptation before deploying in an LMIC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere112
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Cellular phone
  • Interactive voice response
  • Noncommunicable disease
  • Public health surveillance
  • Risk factors
  • Survey methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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