Moving to direct electronic capture of patient-reported data: lessons from the UKSTAR trial
WAGLAND S., ACHTEN J., COSTA M.
Introduction: Aims: It is sometimes assumed that collecting data electronically is less staff resource-intensive than collection on paper, and that follow-up will be more complete. Evidence to support this is lacking. Our aims were to assess the impact of switching from data collection via postal paper questionnaires (paper-data) to electronic data collection (e-data) on follow-up rates. Objectives: To report on the effectiveness of e-data compared to paper-data. Setting: In the UKSTAR trial, we switched data collection from paperdata to e-data during follow-up. UKSTAR is an RCT comparing treatments for patients with Achilles tendon rupture. Methods: 540 adult participants were invited to complete questionnaires 3, 6 and 9 months post-randomisation. Questionnaires were sent by post, during the first 15 months of follow-up. Data collection then switched to e-data for a further 13 months, with invitations sent via email and/or text. Relevant data collected for this sub-study included: patient demographics and follow-up rates. Results: 1577 invitations were sent (732 postal, 845 electronic). Response rate after the initial invite was lower at all time-points with edata than postal invitations (combined over time 59% vs 81% respectively). Both sexes had higher response rates to paper-data than to e-data (men 79% vs 56%; women 89% vs 70% respectively). Participants aged 55 and over responded better to a first invite by post than by edata (82% vs 60% respectively), as did younger participants (78% vs 59% respectively). Discussion: In this study we showed that e-data collection has lower response rates than paper-data collection in an adult population that includes people of working age. Results of this study could have been limited by the study design; randomisation of patients to the data collection method could have provided more robust data.