Adherence to Web-Based Self-Assessments in Long-Term Direct-to-Patient Research: Two-Year Study of Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Peter Joseph Jongen*, Ingrid E. H. Kremer, Elena Hristodorova, Silvia M. A. A. Evers, Anton Kool, Esther M. van Noort, Mickael Hiligsmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Direct-to-patient research via Web-based questionnaires is increasingly being used. Missed data or delayed reporting of data may negatively affect the quality of study results. It is insufficiently known to what degree patients adhere to agreed self-assessment schedule over the long term and whether questionnaires are filled out in a timely manner.

Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate patients' adherence to a self-assessment schedule with low-frequency long questionnaires versus that with a high-frequency short questionnaire.

Methods: In this study, the 36-item MS Impact Profile (MSIP) questionnaire measured (perceived) disabilities and the 54-item MS Quality of Life-54 (MSQoL-54) questionnaire measured health-related quality of life at 6-month intervals. Additionally, the 2-item Medication and Adherence (MA) questionnaire documented medication and adherence to disease-modifying medication every month. An experienced MS nurse assessed the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score via phone. For both the self-assessment schedules, we calculated the percentage of patients who had completed all the questionnaires in the first 2 years (completion adherence), the percentage of patients who completed all the questionnaires within set time frames (interval adherence), the relationship between adherence and the EDSS score, and the timing of EDSS assessment.

Results: Of the 331 patients who enrolled themselves, 301 patients completed at least one questionnaire. At month six (M6), M12, M18, and M24, the MSIP was completed by 83.4% (251/301), 71.8% (216/301), 68.1% (205/301), and 58.5% (176/301) of the patients, respectively; the MSQoL-54 by 82.1% (247/301), 71.8% (216/301), 66.8% (201/301), and 57.1% (172/301), respectively; and the MA questionnaire by 80.1% (241/301), 70.4% (212/301), 62.1% (187/301), and 53.5% (161/301), respectively. For the MSIP, 56.8% (171/301) of the patients were 2-year completion adherent; 55.5% (167/301) and 53.5% (161/301) of the patients were completion adherent for the MSQoL-54 and MA questionnaires, respectively. Whereas 85.5% (142/166) of the patients were interval adherent for the MSIP and MSQoL-54, 25.5% (41/161) were interval adherent for the MA questionnaire, with 73.9% (119/161) exceeding the maximum MA monthly interassessment interval. Completion adherence for the monthly short MA questionnaire was higher in patients with moderately high disability (EDSS 5.0-5.5) than for those with no or minimal disability (EDSS 0-2.5) (OR 5.47, 95% CI 1.08-27.69; P=.040). Completion adherence was also higher in patients with EDSS assessment within 6 months after baseline than in those with later assessment (OR 1.810, 95% CI 0.999-3.280; P=.050).

Conclusions: The 2-year completion adherence to Web-based self-assessments did not differ between the low-frequency long questionnaires and a high-frequency short questionnaire, but the interval adherence was substantially higher for the low-frequency long questionnaires. Personal contact with a member of the research team regarding a clinically relevant professional-reported outcome early in the study might positively affect the long-term completion adherence in direct-to-patient studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number249
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Internet
  • patients
  • multiple sclerosis
  • surveys and questionnaires
  • self-assessment
  • patient compliance
  • quality of life

Cite this