Open Access Research

Factors associated with non-response in routine use of patient reported outcome measures after elective surgery in England

Andrew Hutchings*, Jenny Neuburger, Kirstin Grosse Frie, Nick Black and Jan van der Meulen

Author Affiliations

Department of Health Services Research & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK

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Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2012, 10:34  doi:10.1186/1477-7525-10-34

Published: 30 March 2012



Patient-reported outcome measures are increasingly being used to compare providers. We studied whether non-response rates to post-operative questionnaires are associated with patients' characteristics and organisational features of providers.


131 447 patients who underwent a hip or knee replacement, hernia repair or varicose vein surgery in 2009-10 in England. Multivariable logistic regression to calculate adjusted odds ratios of non-response for characteristics of the patients and organisational characteristics of providers. Multiple imputation was used for missing patient characteristics. Providers were included as random effects.


Response rates to the post-operative questionnaire were 85.1% for hip replacement (n = 37 961), 85.3% for knee replacements (n = 44 422), 72.9% for hernia repair (n = 34 964), and 64.8% for varicose vein surgery (n = 14 100). Across the four procedures, there were higher levels of non-response in men (odds ratios 1.03 [95% CI 0.95-1.11] - 1.35 [1.25-1.46]), younger patients (those under 55 years 3.01 [2.72-3.32] - 6.05 [5.49-6.67]), non-white patients (1.24 [1.11-1.38] - 2.08 [1.89-2.31]), patients in the most deprived quintile of socio-economic status (1.47 [1.34-1,62] - 1.86 [1.71-2.03]), those who lived alone (1.11 [0.99-1.23] - 1.27 [1.18-1.36]) and those who had been assisted when completing their pre-operative questionnaire (1.26 [1.10-1.46] -1.67 [1.56-1.79]). Non-response rates were also higher in patients who had poorer pre-operative health (three or more comorbidities: 1.14 [0.96-1.35] - 1.45 [1.30-1.63]). Providers' patient recruitment rates before surgery and the timing of pre-operative questionnaire administration did not affect the rates of response to post-operative questionnaires.


If non-response can be shown to be associated with outcome, then rates of non-response to post-operative questionnaires would need to be taken into account when these measures are being used to compare the performance of providers or to evaluate surgical procedures.

Response bias; Mailed surveys; Patient reported outcomes; Clinical audit