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Implement Sci. 2009 Oct 20;4:68. doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-4-68.

Effectiveness of strategies to encourage general practitioners to accept an offer of free access to online evidence-based information: a randomised controlled trial.

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  • 1National Health and Medical Research Council, Melbourne, Australia.



This study examined the effectiveness of seven different interventions designed to increase the proportion of general practitioners (GPs) accepting an offer of free access to an online evidence-based resource.


Australian GPs (n = 14,000) were randomly selected and assigned to seven intervention groups, with each receiving a different letter. Seven different strategies were used to encourage GPs to accept an offer of two years free access to an online evidence-based resource (BMJ Clinical Evidence). The first group received a standard letter of offer with no experimental demands. Groups two to seven received a standard letter of offer outlining the requirements of the study. They were asked to complete an initial online questionnaire, agree to complete a 12-month follow-up questionnaire, and agree to having data about their usage of the online evidence-based resource provided to researchers. Groups three to seven also had additional interventions included in the letter of offer: access to an online tutorial in use of the resource (group three); provision of a pamphlet with statements from influential opinion leaders endorsing the resource (group four); offer of eligibility to receive professional development points (group five); offer of eligibility for a prize of $500 for registration at a medical conference of their choice (group six); and a combination of some of the above interventions (group seven).


In the group with no research demands, 27% accepted the offer. Average acceptance across all other groups was 10%. There was no advantage in using additional strategies such as financial incentives, opinion leader support, offer of professional development points, or an educational aid over a standard letter of offer to increase acceptance rates.


This study showed low acceptance rates of the offer of access to the online resource when there was an associated requirement of response to a short online questionnaire and non-obtrusive monitoring of GP behaviour in terms of accessing the resource. If we are to improve care and encourage evidence-based practice, we need to find effective ways of motivating doctors and other health professionals to take part in research that can inform our implementation efforts.

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