Feasibility of contact surveys in general practice
Phillips A., Mant D.
Surveys to evaluate risk factors for disease in the general population are popular with health authorities for assessing the effectiveness of their preventive measures. A contact survey of the lifestyles of 2000 randomly selected patients aged 25-64 was conducted in five general practices over 18 months; the medical records of the patients selected were tagged, and when the patients first visited the surgery they were given a questionnaire by the receptionists, which they completed in the waiting room. Over the 18 months at least 1400 of these patients visited the practices, of whom 1106 (55%) completed a questionnaire and 20 refused to do so; 896 (81%) completed it within one year. Information on the patients who were not surveyed was obtained by sending the questionnaire by post and by audit of medical records. The population surveyed on contact with the surgeries contained a higher proportion of young women, and possibly a higher proportion of patients from social classes IIIM-V, than the other patients. No important or consistent bias towards unhealthy patients at high risk was identified in the contact survey. A one year contact survey of a random, tagged sample is feasible in estimating the risk factors in a population and may be the method of choice in general practice because of its low cost and adaptability. © 1987, British Medical Journal Publishing Group. All rights reserved.