Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
RESEARCH ARTICLE

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

Abstract

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.


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