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BMC Fam Pract. 2013 Jul 30;14:108. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-14-108.

A small unconditional non-financial incentive suggests an increase in survey response rates amongst older general practitioners (GPs): a randomised controlled trial study.

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University Centre for Rural Health, Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, 61 Uralba Street, PO Box 3074, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.



Few studies have investigated the effect of small unconditional non-monetary incentives on survey response rates amongst GPs or medical practitioners. This study assessed the effectiveness of offering a small unconditional non-financial incentive to increase survey response rates amongst general practitioners within a randomised controlled trial (RCT).


An RCT was conducted within a general practice survey that investigated how to prolong working lives amongst ageing GPs in Australia. GPs (nā€‰=ā€‰125) were randomised to receive an attractive pen or no pen during their first invitation for participation in a survey. GPs could elect to complete the survey online or via mail. Two follow up reminders were sent without a pen to both groups. The main outcome measure was response rates.


The response rate for GPs who received a pen was higher in the intervention group (61.9%) compared to the control group (46.8%). This study did not find a statistically significant effect of a small unconditional non-financial incentive (in the form of a pen) on survey response rates amongst GPs (Odds ratio, 95% confidence interval: 1.85 (0.91 to 3.77). No GPs completed the online version.


A small unconditional non-financial incentives, in the form of a pen, may improve response rates for GPs.

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