As with many aspects of our day-to-day lives, digital technology has entered the world of data capture and transformed the way we conduct clinical trials, research projects and audits. With emerging technologies such as mobile data capture, touch screen kiosks, text analytics and natural language processing becoming ever more commonplace, it sometimes seems as though the old ways of the paper questionnaire are now redundant. There is space, however, for our new technological processes to sit beside the traditional data capture techniques that have served us well for so long, to the mutual benefit of both. Here’s why research questionnaires are still pertinent today, despite the emergence of new, technology-driven processes…



Anonymity is an incredibly important part of any clinical research project or healthcare study. Your patients may face sensitive issues, and even if they don’t, they might be legitimately concerned about data security. The beauty of a paper research questionnaire is that it can be completely anonymous – filled out in the patient’s own time and submitted without the need for personal details or identification. Depending on the nature of your study, the anonymity afforded by research questionnaires could help you to achieve a higher response rate and a greater level of honesty from participants. With unique reference numbers on each paper questionnaire, we can also maintain anonymity of answers whilst being able to manage targeted reminders for those respondents who have not yet returned a paper questionnaire. These can also be used alongside other data collection methods, such as online questionnaires, with unique reference numbers giving respondents a choice on their preferred means of format.



If there’s one thing you can count on from a paper research questionnaire, it’s that it will be reliable and more or less foolproof, particularly when designed with expert assistance. While all of our data capture processes are dependable and accurate, a paper research questionnaire will have no difficulties with intermittent WiFi access or access to mains electricity. The reliability and flexibility of paper questionnaires makes them suitable for use in remote parts of the world and deprived areas, where clinical trials are often the most necessary. A good paper research questionnaire strategy will also consider how forms are sent out, where they are returned to and how the data will subsequently be processed, all of which can be explored through one of our knowledge sharing workshops.



Clinical trials and healthcare research projects will often mean approaching a number of patients from different backgrounds and demographics. Some people will be only too happy to respond using online forms, touchscreen kiosks or mobile data capture devices, but others may not be familiar with such technologies and will need a different approach. Elderly patients or those without access to the latest technologies may be more comfortable responding to research questionnaires than confronting new technological processes, so it’s always important to retain the flexibility to do both. Importantly, ensuring that respondents are comfortable with the means of data capture you choose can have an impact upon response rates and information accuracy, so it’s important not to discredit a particular means of collection without researching its effects first.



Paper research questionnaires provide unparalleled levels of customisability for healthcare researchers and clinicians. You can tailor the layout, the questions, the length and the format of your questionnaire to suit the nature of your study, without having to rely on a third party to do so for you as you might with a more technology-oriented approach. Being able to fully design and customise your own questionnaire allows you the freedom to necessitate the responses you need for your study. Of course, it’s always worth taking advice from data collection experts within this area. This may help to ensure your questionnaire achieves higher response rates or more accurate information by helping you to clarify your research objectives and objectively judge the reaction your respondents may have to details such as the phrasing of questions or length of questionnaire.

Here at DCC, we take an inclusive approach to clinical research and healthcare data capture, providing solutions that take the best aspects of modern automated processes and the features that made the traditional techniques so popular in the first place. If you’d like to find out more about how our approach can help your healthcare institution this year, contact us today.


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