Increasing follow-up questionnaire response rates in a randomized controlled trial of telehealth for depression: three embedded controlled studies

Louisa P Edwards, Chris J Salisbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
372 Downloads (Pure)


Attrition is problematic in trials, and may be exacerbated in longer studies, telehealth trials and participants with depression – three features of The Healthlines Study. Advance notification, including a photograph and using action-oriented email subject lines might increase response rates, but require further investigation. We examined the effectiveness of these interventions in three embedded Healthlines studies.

Based in different trial sites, participants with depression were alternately allocated to be pre-called or not ahead of the 8-month follow-up questionnaire (Study 1), randomized to receive a research team photograph or not with their 12-month questionnaire (Study 2), and randomized to receive an action-oriented (‘ACTION REQUIRED’) or standard (‘Questionnaire reminder’) 12-month email reminder (Study 3). Participants could complete online or postal questionnaires, and received up to five questionnaire reminders. The primary outcome was completion of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Secondary outcome measures were the number of reminders and time to questionnaire completion.

Of a total of 609 Healthlines depression participants, 190, 251 and 231 participants were included in Studies 1–3 (intervention: 95, 126 and 115), respectively. Outcome completion was ≥90 % across studies, with no differences between trial arms (Study 1: OR 0.38, 95 % CI 0.07–2.10; Study 2: OR 0.84, 95 % CI 0.26–2.66; Study 3: OR 0.53 95 % CI 0.19–1.49). Pre-called participants were less likely to require a reminder (48.4 % vs 62.1 %, OR 0.41, 95 % CI 0.21–0.78), required fewer reminders (adjusted difference in means −0.67, 95 % CI −1.13 to −0.20), and completed follow-up quicker (median 8 vs 15 days, HR 1.35, 95 % CI 1.00–1.82) than control subjects. There were no significant between-group differences in Studies 2 or 3.

Eventual response rates in this trial were high, with no further improvement from these interventions. While the photograph and email interventions were ineffective, pre-calling participants reduced time to completion. This strategy might be helpful when the timing of study completion is important. Researchers perceived a substantial benefit from the reduction in reminders with pre-calling, despite no overall decrease in net effort after accounting for pre-notification.

Trial registration
Current Clinical Trials ISRCTN14172341
Original languageEnglish
Article number107
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2016

Structured keywords

  • ConDuCT-II


  • Depression
  • Email reminders
  • Embedded study
  • Photographs
  • Pre-notification
  • Recruitment
  • Response rates
  • Retention
  • Telehealth
  • Trials


Dive into the research topics of 'Increasing follow-up questionnaire response rates in a randomized controlled trial of telehealth for depression: three embedded controlled studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • ConDuCT-II

    Blazeby, J.


    Project: Research

Cite this