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.
Susan Wagland, University of Oxford, NDORMS, John Radcliffe Hospital, Kadoorie Centre, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX3 9DU, United Kingdom
RCT, follow-up, e-data