Katherine Corcoran is now working at The George Institute for Global Health, Level 10, King George V Building, PO Box M201, 83–117 Missenden Rd, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia.
Is it time to abandon paper? The use of emails and the Internet for health services research – a cost-effectiveness and qualitative study
Article first published online: 29 MAY 2012
© 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Volume 19, Issue 5, pages 855–861, October 2013
How to Cite
Hunter, J., Corcoran, K., Leeder, S. and Phelps, K. (2013), Is it time to abandon paper? The use of emails and the Internet for health services research – a cost-effectiveness and qualitative study. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 19: 855–861. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2012.01864.x
- Issue published online: 23 SEP 2013
- Article first published online: 29 MAY 2012
- Accepted for publication: 5 March 2012
- health services research;
- patient participation;
- primary care;
- qualitative research;
- response rate
Rationale A multidisciplinary primary care clinic in Sydney, Australia, was planning to use electronic questionnaires to measure patient-reported outcomes.
Methods Semi-structured interviews with 20 patients were undertaken to explore, among other things, practical issues regarding different questionnaire formats. The response rates and costs of email versus postal invitations were also evaluated.
Results Compared with postal invitations, email invitations offered a cost-effective and practical alternative, with a greater proportion of patients volunteering for an interview. Assuming the interface is well-designed and user-friendly, many patients were happy to use the Internet to answer questionnaires. Most patients thought alternate formats should also be offered. Patients discussed advantages and disadvantages of the Internet format. Although more younger patients and females had given the clinic an email address; both sexes, and young and old patients, expressed strong preferences for either wanting or not wanting to use the Internet.
Conclusion Researchers should consider using email invitations as a cost-effective first-line strategy to recruit patients to participate in health services research. Internet questionnaires are potentially cheaper than paper questionnaires, and the format is acceptable to many patients. However, for the time being, concurrent alternate formats need to be offered to ensure wider acceptability and to maximize response rates.