1. Perry, William MA, RN

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The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


Do you need to collect data from several locations, collect quiz or survey entries? Are you still using a yellow pad to make hash marks while reviewing records? Here are 4 free, Internet-based options that may make your job a bit easier. Although they are password protected and 3 can use Secure Sockets (SSL) encryption, I would not use any of them for protected health information without checking with the appropriate security office in your organization.


If you have a Google e-mail account (, you also have access to Google Docs. This suite of applications contains a word processor, presentation program, and spreadsheet, all of which are Microsoft Office compatible. You can create a data entry form that saves data to a Google spreadsheet and can either be posted on the Web, be shared with selected participants, or be kept private for your own use.


The process is simple. Sign into Google Docs (, and select New, then Form. If you do not have an account, you can set one up for free. As you create the form, you can display an introduction or instructions for using the form; help text to go along with each item; make the item required; and configure it as text, multiple choice, text boxes, choose from a list, or a scale. When you are done, you have the option to keep the form private, share the form with selected individuals, or create a link you can post on a Web site or include in an e-mail. The data will be inserted into your spreadsheet.


When you return to your Google Docs spreadsheet, you can view the data either as a spreadsheet or in summary view, with the distribution of responses displayed as a graph.


Zoho Docs ( is a competitor of Google Docs. They have a Microsoft-compatible word processor, presentation application, and spreadsheet and an application called Zoho Creator, which enables you to create an online form that inserts data into a database that can be exported to a csv file that can be easily imported into a spreadsheet. A feature unique to Zoho Docs is the ability to import Microsoft Access tables to create an online data collection application. This application is free for only 2 users to see and manipulate data, but you can post a link to the form on your Web site or send an embedded link in an e-mail. Accessing your Zoho account is through a secure SSL connection.


Many people are familiar with Survey Monkey (, a data collection tool that enables you to create very involved forms. The free version is limited to 100 responses per survey and is limited to 10 questions per survey. Upgrading to the full version costs $200 per year, but that includes unlimited surveys and responses.


Survey Monkey is extremely easy to use, and the data can be exported in a number of different ways. There are tools to filter responses and create crosstabs. In the professional version, data can be exported in summary or detailed view to a csv format that is easily imported into your favorite spreadsheet or database. You cannot download responses using the free version of Survey Monkey.


Similar to Survey Monkey is the Survey Gizmo ( Their free version allows 250 responses per month with unlimited surveys. You log into your account through an https connection. Survey Gizmo has a tiered pricing structure depending on the number of surveys and responses you expect to receive. There are significant discounts for academic and nonprofit institutions. Survey Gizmo is the most feature-rich (and potentially highest priced) of the applications listed, but the many analysis and reporting options may be just the kind of analysis tools you need.


Toss out that yellow lined pad, and give one of these a try.


William Perry, MA, RN