A prospective study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of a stamped addressed envelope, as compared to a non-stamped but addressed envelope or no envelope, on response to a mailed questionnaire. The correlation between questionnaire response and subsequent attendance at the first appointment was also studied.
The overall response rate was 26% of 176 families offered first appointments at a local child psychiatry service. Families provided with a stamped addressed envelope were more likely to return their questionnaire and those families who returned the questionnaire were more likely to attend their first appointment.
The return of patient questionnaires has significant clinical and resource implications. Only essential questionnaires should be sent out to referred families as nearly three-quarters will not be returned. The return rate can be enhanced by providing a stamped addressed envelope but, if questionnaires are not returned within 10 days, the likelihood of return is minimal. As more than half of the families who failed to return the questionnaire also failed to attend their first appointment, questionnaires can be used as a measure of motivation and likelihood of attendance as well as a source of clinical information.
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