Questionnaires can be an excellent method of collecting  information when used appropriately.

Pros Cons
Questionnaires need not be particularly time consuming or costly to conduct The questions you ask need to be fairly simple and there is no opportunity for probing or for spontaneous responses
They can also be the best way to obtain accurate responses to sensitive or personal questions Response rates can be low, particularly amongst certain groups patients, for example young single men
Questionnaires can be completed by patients attending a service or used in a postal survey Respondents must be able to read the questions and respond to them.  Therefore surveys may not be suitable for all demographics
Questionnaires can be a useful way of collecting information which  a respondent might want time to think about Those that respond to the survey may be those with really positive or negative views who want their opinion heard

If you decide to use a questionnaire in your HNA, remember to allow time to design and pilot it. This preparatory work will pay dividends later in terms of the response rate and quality of the data you obtain.

Designing your questionnaire

There are many books devoted to this subject so here we just aim to provide some helpful pointers.

Introducing your questionnaire: Always include a covering letter or section which clearly explains:

  • Why the survey is being undertaken
  • How the information gathered will be used
  • That the information gained will be treated in strict confidence and will not be passed to a third party other than in a form in which the patient cannot be identified
  • How to complete the questionnaire

Depending upon the demographic of your sample population, you may need to consider making your questionnaire available in a range of languages and/or large print.

If you have a large population of patients who are unable to read , you may need to consider alternative completion methods such as having a receptionist read through the questionnaire with these patients.

Hint: You could try boosting your response rate by entering all respondents into a prize draw for a hamper or some shopping vouchers. Respondents will need to leave a contact number for you to contact them on if they win.

Types of Questions

  • Factual e.g. “How many times in the last 3 months have you……”
    For this type of question it can be helpful, both for the respondent and later in your analysis, to offer a number of ‘tick box’ options.
  • Opinion seeking or attitudinal. This type of question can be problematic, so you should think carefully about the wording and the information you hope to obtain by asking it.
  • Details about the respondent e.g. age, home circumstances etc.
    These questions are best left to the end of the questionnaire unless you are seeking a quota of respondents with specific characteristics.

Question Wording:

Questions should be:

  • Specific
  • Written in plain language
  • Unambiguous
  • Sensitive

Questions should avoid:

  • Using double questions such as “Do you suffer from asthma or diabetes?”
  • Using vague word such as ‘regularly’ or ‘generally’
  • Leading questions e.g. “Do you suffer from a chronic disease like asthma?”
  • Presumptuous  questions e.g. “When you last consulted your doctor, how satisfied were you?”
  • Impersonal questions e.g. “Should well people go to their doctor for health checks?”

Question Order

Early questions should motivate the respondent to complete the questionnaire, so try to ensure they are interesting and relatively easy to respond to.

If you wish to ensure that respondents give a considered response to a specific question, it should be preceded by an appropriate general question e.g. Preliminary question – “What would be the advantages to you of visiting you GP for asthma checks every three months instead of going to the asthma clinic at that time?”. Real question – “If you were offered this opportunity, would you take it?”

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