CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Australian Journal of Primary Health   
Australian Journal of Primary Health
  The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Sample Issue
Call for Papers
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
Awards and Prizes
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our email Early Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with CP
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn

red arrow Connect with La Trobe
blank image
facebook twitter LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 21(2)

Recruiting general practitioners for surveys: reflections on the difficulties and some lessons learned

Anne Parkinson A F, Louisa Jorm B C, Kirsty A. Douglas D, Alison Gee A, Ginny M. Sargent A E, Sanja Lujic B and Ian S. McRae A

A Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, The Australian National University, Building 63, Corner Mills and Eggleston Roads, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
B Centre for Health Research, Building 3, Campbelltown Campus, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia.
C Sax Institute, PO Box K617, Haymarket, NSW 1240, Australia.
D Australian National University Medical School, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Building 42, Linnaeus Way, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
E National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Building 62, Corner Mills and Eggleston Roads, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
F Corresponding author. Email: anne.parkinson@anu.edu.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 21(2) 254-258 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/PY13129
Submitted: 12 September 2013  Accepted: 21 January 2014   Published: 3 March 2014

PDF (113 KB) $25
 Export Citation

Surveys of GPs are essential to facilitate future planning and delivery of health services. However, recruitment of GPs into research has been disappointing with response rates declining over recent years. This study identified factors that facilitated or hampered GP recruitment in a recent survey of Australian GPs where a range of strategies were used to improve recruitment following poor initial responses. GP response rates for different stages of the survey were examined and compared with reasons GPs and leaders of university research networks cited for non-participation. Poor initial response rates were improved by including a questionnaire in the mail-out, changing the mail-out source from an unknown research team to locally known network leaders, approaching a group of GPs known to have research and training interests, and offering financial compensation. Response rates increased from below 1% for the first wave to 14.5% in the final wave. Using a known and trusted network of professionals to endorse the survey combined with an explicit compensation payment significantly enhanced GP response rates. To obtain response rates for surveys of GPs that are high enough to sustain external validity requires an approach that persuades GPs and their gatekeepers that it is worth their time to participate.

Additional keywords: general practice, health-care surveys, primary health care, survey recruitment.


ABS (2011) Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 - Remoteness Structure. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Aitken C, Power R, Dwyer R (2008) A very low response rate in an on-line survey of medical practitioners. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 32, 288–289.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Asch DA, Jedrziewski MK, Christakis NA (1997) Response rates to mail surveys published in medical journals. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 50, 1129–1136.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Barclay S, Todd C, Finlay I, Grande G, Wyatt P (2002) Not another questionnaire! Maximizing the response rate, predicting non-response and assessing non-response bias in postal questionnaire studies of GPs. Family Practice 19, 105–111.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Bonevski B, Magin P, Horton G, Foster M, Girgis A (2011) Response rates in GP surveys – trialling two recruitment strategies. Australian Family Physician 40, 427–430.

Cook JV, Dickinson HO, Eccles MP (2009) Response rates in postal surveys of healthcare professionals between 1996 and 2005: an observational study. BMC Health Services Research 9, 160
CrossRef | PubMed |

Crouch S, Robinson P, Pitts M (2011) A comparison of general practitioner response rates to electronic and postal surveys in the setting of the National STI Prevention Program. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 35, 187–189.
CrossRef | PubMed |

DOHA (2012) GP Workforce Statistics – 1984–85 to 2011–12. Available at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/General+Practice+Statistics-1 [Verified 11 December 2013]

Edwards PJ, Roberts I, Clarke MJ, Diguiseppi C, Wentz R, Kwan I, Cooper R, Felix LM, Pratap S (2009) Methods to increase response to postal and electronic questionnaires. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews MR000008
CrossRef | PubMed |

Field TS, Cadoret CA, Brown ML, Ford M, Greene SM, Hill D, Hornbrook MC, Meenan RT, White MJ, Zapka JM (2002) Surveying physicians: do components of the ‘total design approach’ to optimizing survey response rates apply to physicians? Medical Care 40, 596–605.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Forrest LE, Herath PM, McRae IS, Parker RM (2011) A national survey of general practitioners’ experiences of patient-initiated aggression in Australia. The Medical Journal of Australia 194, 605–608.

Goodyear-Smith F, York D, Petousis-Harris H, Turner N, Copp J, Kerse N, Grant C (2009) Recruitment of practices in primary care research: the long and the short of it. Family Practice 26, 128–136.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Grava-Gubins I, Scott S (2008) Effects of various methodologic strategies: survey response rates among Canadian physicians and physicians-in-training. Canadian Family Physician (Medecin de Famille Canadien) 54, 1424–1430.

Harris C, Day N, Young D, Potiriaids M, Southern D, Dunt D (2005) Improving general practice survey response rates: bells (primers), whistles (reminders) and carrots (incentives). Australian Journal of Primary Health 11, 106–112.
CrossRef |

James EL, Talbot L (2005) Conducting research in general practice: lessons learnt from experience. Health Promotion Journal of Australia 16, 41–46.

Jones KM, Dixon ME, Dixon JB (2012) General practice research–does gender affect the decision to participate? Australian Family Physician 41, 419–423.

Joyce CM, Scott A, Jeon SH, Humphreys J, Kalb G, Witt J, Leahy A (2010) The ‘medicine in Australia: balancing employment and life (MABEL)’ longitudinal survey – protocol and baseline data for a prospective cohort study of Australian doctors’ workforce participation. BMC Health Services Research 10, 50
CrossRef | PubMed |

Mant D, Del Mar C, Glasziou P, Knottnerus A, Wallace P, Van Weel C (2004) The state of primary-care research. Lancet 364, 1004–1006.
CrossRef | PubMed |

McLeod CC, Klabunde CN, Willis GB, Stark D (2013) Healthcare provider surveys in the United States, 2000–2010: a review. Evaluation & the Health Professions 36, 106–126.
CrossRef |

Ngune I, Jiwa M, Dadich A, Lotriet J, Sriram D (2012) Effective recruitment strategies in primary care research: a systematic review. Quality in Primary Care 20, 115–123.

Schäfer WL, Boerma WG, Kringos DS, De Maeseneer J, Gress S, Heinemann S, Rotar-Pavlic D, Seghieri C, Svab I, Van Den Berg MJ, Vainieri M, Westert GP, Willems S, Groenewegen PP (2011) QUALICOPC, a multi-country study evaluating quality, costs and equity in primary care. BMC Family Practice 12, 115
CrossRef | PubMed |

Scott A, Jeon SH, Joyce CM, Humphreys JS, Kalb G, Witt J, Leahy A (2011) A randomised trial and economic evaluation of the effect of response mode on response rate, response bias, and item non-response in a survey of doctors. BMC Medical Research Methodology 11, 126
CrossRef | PubMed |

Thorpe C, Ryan B, Mclean S, Burt A, Stewart M, Brown J, Reid G, Harris S (2009) How to obtain excellent response rates when surveying physicians. Family Practice 26, 65–68.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

VanGeest JB, Johnson TP, Welch VL (2007) Methodologies for improving response rates in surveys of physicians: a systematic review. Evaluation & the Health Professions 30, 303–321.
CrossRef |

Veitch C, Hollins J, Worley P, Mitchell G (2001) General practice research. Problems and solutions in participant recruitment and retention. Australian Family Physician 30, 399–406.

Yallop JJ, McAvoy BR, Croucher JL, Tonkin A, Piterman L (2006) Primary healthcare research – essential but disadvantaged. The Medical Journal of Australia 185, 118–120.

Ziegenfuss J, Burmeister K, James K, Haas L, Tilburt J, Beebe T (2012) Getting physicians to open the survey: little evidence that an envelope teaser increases response rates. BMC Medical Research Methodology 12, 41
CrossRef | PubMed |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016