Background: Accuracy of incidence estimates may be affected by biases that depend on frequency of approach to reporters and reporting window length. A time-sampling strategy enables infrequent approaches with short windows but has never been evaluated.
Methods: A randomized crossover trial compared incidence estimates of work-related diseases using time-sampled versus continuous-time reporting. Physicians were randomly allocated either to report every month (12/12) in 2004 and for 1 randomly chosen month (1/12) in 2005, or to the reverse sequence. Numbers of new cases of work-related disease reported per reporter per month for 1/12 and 12/12 reporting periods were compared.
Results: Response rates were high (87%). Withdrawal from the study was higher under 12/12 reporting. The rate ratio for 1/12 versus 12/12 reporting was 1.26 (95% confidence interval = 1.11-1.42). Rates declined gradually in the 12/12 groups over the year, consistent with reporting fatigue.
Conclusions: Increased frequency of data collection may reduce incidence estimates.