Evidence-Based Survey Methods
The EMS for Children Program requires a minimum response rate of 80%. Research shows there are proven methods for increasing your survey response rates.
These evidence-based methods to motivate respondents to complete a survey include short communications sent at strategic dates.
The multiple contact system has been shown to STATISTICALLY improve response rates to web, telephone, and paper surveys.
However one size does not fit all and managers have found additional methods to help them achieve the required response rate. An aspect to increasing survey response rates is to build upon previously established relationships and friendships.
EMSC program managers are a trusted source of information and many managers have found ways to augment their knowledge of their state/territory and their relationship with EMS agencies to increase response rates.
Iowa EMSC Program Manager since 2016
Eric has over 900 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in his state. After a random sample of EMS agencies was generated for Eric to use, he had to survey 390 EMS agencies. He launched his survey on March 1, 2017.
He achieved a 99.7% response rate! Only 1 agency did not complete the survey.
Being so new to the Program, Eric came up with several strategies to increase his response rate. These strategies were in addition to following NEDARC's Response Rate Plan.
According to Eric:
Iowa is a largely rural state with many volunteer EMS agencies. There is one email address that everyone shares at these agencies and they rarely check their email.
I sent the emails for the invitation and reminders. I followed up by calling the volunteer agencies introducing myself and the Iowa EMSC Program, and letting them know I had sent them an email for the survey.
Sometimes I didn't have the name or phone number of the EMS/Fire contact in some of the small towns. I Googled the city Hall for those towns and found the contact for the City Manager -- every town no matter how small has a full time city manager.
I asked the city Manager to give my name and phone number to the ems person, explaining i was the EMSC Manager with the Department of Health and would appreciate them calling me. I had great success doing this.
through trial and error, i found that if the EMS agency person I was calling didn't answer the telephone, it was important to not leave too much information on the voice message. instead I would just say my name and phone number, that i was with the Bureau of Emergency and Trauma Services and would appreciate them calling me back.
it was important to not say anything about a survey when i left a message. I found if i mentioned the survey, i didn't hear back. If i just gave my name and affiliation, they called back.
Eric has found this a great networking opportunity, stating the survey is:
A great way to partner with your EMS Folks!
Wyoming EMSC Program Manager since 2015
Brandon has 55 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in his state. He launched his survey on April 3, 2017.
He achieved a 98% response rate!
Brandon has been using the NEDARC Response Rate plan and he offered any agency that completed the survey within the 1st week of the launch would be entered into a drawing. The winner would be able to choose to have Brandon throw a BBQ party for them, detail one of their ambulances, or something comparable.
Recently, Brandon did a live drawing on YouTube. Check out his YouTube survey drawing below.
After a month of no change, Brandon had 3 agencies at the end who had not completed the survey despite multiple emails. Instead of giving up, Brandon called the agencies to determine their barriers to completing the survey. The barrier was that they either had dial up or no internet. Brandon helped them complete the survey over the telephone to achieve his 100% response rate.
Nebraska EMSC Program Manager for over 20 years
Debbie has 366 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in her state. She launched her survey on May 1, 2017.
Within 1 hour of sending her invitation, Debbie had 17 completed surveys! And by the end of the 1st month of data collection she had achieved an 80% response rate. Her goal was 100% and she got it.
Debbie and her regional EMSC coordinators have been using the NEDARC contact letter templates. Her coordinators are helping by contacting all of the agencies within their region. In fact, Debbie has an extensive plan in addition to the multiple contact letters and using her regional coordinators.
Here is the plan Debbie shared with NEDARC:
- I plan to go to Nebraska State Fire School on May 19 & 20 and will also be talking to people that have not completed their surveys at that point.
- I then plan to go to Nebraska Statewide Summer Conference in July and will be doing the same thing.
- Today [week before the survey launched] is the Nebraska EMS Board meeting and I have it on the agenda to remind them it is starting and to remind their services or services around them to "get 'r done!"
Kentucky EMSC Program Manager since 2011
Morgan has 168 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in her state. She launched her survey on June 1, 2017.
Morgan wanted to make sure her contact list was correct for each EMS agency. Before the launch she sent a letter to each agency contact to:
confirm that you are the best contact for further communications related to the upcoming statewide assessment conducted by the Kentucky Emergency Medical Services for Children (KYEMSC) Program. If you believe another person within your agency would be a better point person, please send me their name and contact information and I will update my list.
After her survey launched she did some additional things to boost her response rates in addition to sending the strategic contacts.
- 3 different Facebook posts to agencies and providers
- Included an article about the survey in her newsletter to agencies
- Got the KY Ambulance Providers Association to send out an email on her behalf about the survey to their listserv
Pennsylvania EMSC Program Manager since 2014
Tom has over 900 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in his state. After a random sample of EMS agencies was generated for Tom to use, he had to survey 450 EMS agencies. He launched his survey on March 1, 2017.
The PA EMSC Program is located at the Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council under the Bureau of EMS. They do not have access to the contact information for individual agencies. Hence, sending out the survey invitation and reminder contacts has been challenging for Tom.
To help boost his response rate for the survey, Tom posted a list of all the non-respondent EMS agencies to the PA EMSC Facebook page. Within 24 hrs of the post, his number of responses went from 99 to 142 -- almost doubling.
Tom plans to do an updated post of non-respondents, tagging EMS people to give the non-respondents another push.
Utah EMSC Program Coordinator since 2016
Allan has 114 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in his state. He launched his survey on May 1, 2017.
The email service Utah EMSC uses does not allow for mail merge. Thus, Allan's options were to send a group email blast or send an individualized personalized email to each EMS agency on his list -- 114 x 5 = 570 individual personalized emails!
He knew based on the evidence-based survey methods, that personalized emails significantly increase response rates.
To work around not being able to do a mail merge, but still wanting to personalize his letters, Allan investigated using programs and services such as mailchimp.com to send his personalized contact letters to EMS agencies.
Allan also sent a personal thank you card to the first 10 EMS agencies who completed his survey.
West Virginia EMSC Program Manager for almost 9 years
Vicki has 133 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in her state. She launched her survey on April 3, 2017.
Vicki achieved a 100% response rate!
Vicki has made the survey and data collection for the performance measures her PRIORITY.
Vicki has also been using the response rate plan, and after being the manager in West Virginia for almost a decade she has built strong relationships with her EMS agencies.
Leveraging her strong relationships she has been reaching out to agencies to remind them of the EMSC Program and survey.
Here's what Vicki had to say about her outreach to agencies:
It's all about the personal contact!
I allotted time to make the personal contacts. This included evenings because many agencies are volunteer and these folks have day jobs.
Vicki wants to continue fostering the relationships she has cultivated with EMS agencies in West Virginia. She is planning on sending an official thank you letter to everyone.
Wisconsin EMSC Program Manager for almost a year
Erica had 271 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in her state. She launched her survey on July 3, 2017.
Erica took the INCENTIVE approach! She told her agencies that if they completed the survey they would be entered into the drawing for a $50 gift card!
Kansas EMSC Program Manager since 2017
Tracy has 149 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in her state. Her survey was scheduled to launch on July 3rd.
Tracy reviewed the response rate plan and based on the strategic times of when you should send your contacts combined with the 4th of July holiday, she opted to send her survey invitations the 2nd week of July. She stated that she didn't want to loose out on those initial eager beaver respondents by them missing the invitation due to the holiday.
Tracy's strategy proved to be successful with a 47% response rate after just 10 days.
Tracy has used other methods to supplement the response rate plan.
I have my color coded excel sheet on my second monitor 24/7. I even have marked it if they’ve read my reminders! HAHA. . . I want to get it right the first time!
As I go to these regional meetings, I take a list of the agencies in that region that have not completed the survey.
Tracy also had strong support from her project director and the Board of EMS
Some of the data asked in the survey had recently been collected in Kansas. Tracy made sure this data for every agency was included with the survey invitation so respondents wouldn't have to look it up.
Before the survey launched, Tracy did a lot of leg work such as
- Speaking at the Board of EMS meetings about the survey
- Presented about the survey at EMS regional meetings
- Sent a personal email to each EMS service director and attached the paper survey
Once the survey launched, she kept of the hard work by:
- Added read receipts to her emails to keep track of who has read/opened her emails and who hasn't
- The first week of the survey launch Tracy spoke to the EMS directors about the pediatric needs
- For the second month, her plans are to remind agencies again during the Board of EMS and regional meetings
Michigan EMSC Program Manager since 2015
Justin has over 900 transporting and non-transporting EMS agencies in his state. After a random sample of EMS agencies was generated for him to use, he had to survey 451 EMS agencies. He launched his survey on May 1, 2017.
He got 370 respondent EMS agencies (82%)!
Justin was paying close attention to his response rate. He realized he had hit a plateau!
I started off calling some of the bigger agencies that I knew would be easier to contact. Most of them just had turnover since we had updated our list, so my emails were going to an invalid address. After I called these agencies, I just started from the top of the non-respondent spreadsheet that you sent me and tried to call 15 agencies a day.
He took notes on the days he would call, who he talked with and the new contact information if it was needed.
Justin followed up with
From doing this I was able to update our contact list and also introduce myself which has been helpful. Some of the rural, un-staffed departments have been really hard to get a hold of, but I’ve just been plugging away and doing what I can. I think I’m on version 11 of my excel spreadsheet from all of the revisions that I’ve made for contact info.
Justin's survey is set to close in 10 days. he just needs 10 more respondents to achieve an 80% response rate. His plan is to send a final personalized contact and call 10 non-respondent EMS agencies each day until the close of his survey.