A nested randomised controlled trial of a newsletter and Post-it® note did not increase postal questionnaire response rates in a falls prevention trial
Rodgers S., Sbizzera I., Cockayne S., Fairhurst C., Lamb SE., Vernon W., Watson J., Hewitt C., Torgerson D.
Background: Attrition (i.e. when participants do not return the questionnaires) is a problem for many randomised controlled trials. The resultant loss of data leads to a reduction in statistical power and can lead to bias. The aim of this study was to assess whether a pre-notification newsletter and/or a handwritten or printed Post-it® note sticker, as a reminder, increased postal questionnaire response rates for participants of randomised controlled trials. Method: This study was a factorial trial embedded within a trial of a falls-prevention intervention among men and women aged ≥65 years under podiatric care. Participants were randomised into one of six groups: newsletter plus handwritten Post-it®; newsletter plus printed Post-it®; newsletter only; handwritten Post-it® only; printed Post-it® only; or no newsletter or Post-it®. The results were combined with those from previous embedded randomised controlled trials in a meta-analysis. Results: The 12-month response rate was 803/826 (97.2%) (newsletter 95.1%, no newsletter 99.3%, printed Post-it® 97.5%, handwritten Post-it® 97.1%, no Post-it® 97.1%). Pre-notification with a newsletter had a detrimental effect on response rates (adjusted odds ratio (OR), 0.14; 95% CI, 0.04 to 0.48; p<0.01) and time to return the questionnaire (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.75 to 0.99; p=0.04). No other statistically significant differences were observed between the intervention groups on response rates, time to response, and the need for a reminder. Conclusions: Post-it® notes have been shown to be ineffective in three embedded trials, whereas the evidence for newsletter reminders is still uncertain.