Increasing Response Rates

Today I am at the EOSConnection conference in Indianapolis, recruiting Eosinophilic Esophagitis patients and caregivers. The participants are all in session now (except for some kids who are raiding my bowl of Smarties), so I’m taking the time to send this email.

With the limited sampling universes of rare diseases, obtaining a high response rate is often imperative to reach your sample size goals.

A client recently introduced me to the new 4th edition of a market research classic, Internet, Mail and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method by Don A. Dillman, Jolene D Smyth and Leah Melani Christian. The book lists many research-proven guidelines to increase response rates, and I’ll share several:

  • If the respondents know the organization and trust has been established, response rates are higher. Fortunately, Rare Patient Voice has established this relationship, having met many of our patients/caregivers, and gaining their trust by paying quickly, and responding to their questions personally.
  • Provide a means for respondents to ask questions about the study – We list our names, emails, and phone numbers, and respondents take advantage of this when they have questions.
  • Let the respondents realize how valuable their responses are – this is especially true in rare diseases.
  • Use multi-modes (mail, phone and internet) – this is often not possible, we typically contact respondents only via email, but it is worth exploring to increase response rates.
  • Provide a token payment before respondents have completed a survey, as well as after – in a way we do this, as we send a gift card when panelists sign up, so they have evidence of our seriousness and interest before they have done their first study.
  • Vary the content of reminders – we can do a better job of this, typically now we send the same content out several times.
  • People want to be consistent in their behavior, use this to encourage them to respond – we remind panelists that they have joined RPV to share their opinions when we send out survey appeals.
  • Many respondents have limited attention spans, keep surveys short – this is in your hands! Remind your clients that shorter studies will get more focused attention and thus higher qualify data.
  • Do not put consent forms at the beginning of the screener if possible – respondents are more likely to consent after they have seen a bit more of what they are getting into.

We typically reach a 50% response rate for non-cancer studies by following many of these guidelines. We’d be happy to work with you to employ even more in pursuit of higher response rates!

About the author: Wes Michael, President and Founder of Rare Patient Voice, has been involved in rare and orphan diseases since 1998, interviewing and surveying patients, caregivers, physicians, nurses and advocacy leaders. Wes has more than 30 years experience in marketing research, and more than 15 years in healthcare marketing research.

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