OBJECTIVES: The dramatic growth of the Internet holds potential for use in survey distribution. Comparisons of electronic mail (e-mail) to traditional survey techniques are lacking. We compared standard mail, telephone, and e-mail modes of endoscopy satisfaction survey administration with respect to response rate, timeliness of response, response content, and cost-efficiency of responses. METHODS: An endoscopy satisfaction questionnaire consisting of seven core items from the modified Group Health Association of America - 9 survey was distributed to patients after routine outpatient endoscopy. Patients were randomized to receive the questionnaire by standard mail, telephone, or e-mail. Response rates and findings in the three groups were compared. The "nonresponders" to the standard mail and e-mail surveys were subsequently contacted by telephone to determine their level of satisfaction. RESULTS: The phone survey response rate (90%) was higher than e-mail (70%) or standard mail (85%), although e-mail was the most cost-efficient mode of survey delivery. There was no significant difference in satisfaction scores among the three groups. Nonresponders were significantly more satisfied than "responders." CONCLUSIONS: A survey technique utilizing e-mail with subsequent follow-up by telephone to nonresponders appears to be the most cost-efficient way to deliver a questionnaire. The satisfaction levels of the responders may underestimate the overall satisfaction of the population being surveyed.
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