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The importance of healthcare market research

It is widely accepted that healthcare research plays an essential role in the success of several different industries, such as entertainment, hospitality, technology and many more. However, market research is also an essential part of the healthcare sector, in order to make sure that communities up and down the country are receiving adequate care. In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at the importance of healthcare market research.

Understanding how patients think

Research is an incredibly useful tool to help services develop a deeper understanding of the wider emotional and social context surrounding long-term conditions. In order to understand the responsibilities that carers, patients and parents take on to manage a disease, NHS Kidney Care partnered with the Ipsos Ethnography Centre of Excellence in 2012 in order to undergo three different ethnographic projects. This research entailed following several people who were living with kidney disease to answer the following questions: what responsibilities were taken, who was held responsible for them and when this responsibility should be taken.

Footage from these various projects was presented to patients, social workers, charities, support workers and clinicians in the field to present the key challenges raised by the research. The discussions that followed led to summary reports and potential solutions in order to provide assistance to all the parties that took responsibility.

Fill gaps in service delivery

Healthcare solutions are sophisticated and complex by nature and usually depend on a service delivery model rather than a straightforward transactional approach. Research firms that assist hospitals in tracking quality and patient care satisfaction usually have engagements with multiple staff members that involve several different touchpoints. Firms that provide laboratories with medical testing equipment also have members of staff that are specialists in providing education and training to ensure that each piece of equipment delivers full value while being used properly. Market research allows these firms to find out if their service delivery model has any gaps, or if there are any windows of opportunity for them to make improvements that can lead to better outcomes and create stronger relationships with healthcare services.

For example, a firm that provides laboratories with medical testing equipment could use market research to determine whether online training is a cost-effective and viable alternative to in-person training. A firm that teams up with hospitals to assess patient satisfaction could also use market research to determine why staff might be struggling to organise data capturing processes.

Assessing the care received

In September 2012, the Greater Midlands Cancer Research Network published a peer review assessment which highlighted several significant risks and concerns regarding back-office management at Stafford Hospital’s breast care multi-disciplinary team. Engaging Communities Staffordshire responded to the concerns by conducting research with 48 patients who had received breast cancer treatment at the hospital. The research unveiled several issues that members of staff were not aware of which led to multiple improvements in the service. As a result, each breast cancer patient is now given a full-time nurse in order to improve communications in the unit. The assigned nurse is then able to offer the patient all of the necessary information, along with local support groups.

Creating engagement

NHS Dudley Public Heath used market research to develop their social marketing campaign to spread awareness of the importance of cervical screenings. The research found that if women in the UK did not attend a cervical screening between the ages of 25 and 29, they were not as likely to attend a screening in future, which could put their cervical health at risk. Initial research from focus groups revealed that women in the UK were more likely to prioritise receiving beauty treatments, such as getting a manicure or a hair cut, than booking healthcare appointments. As a response, the trust focused on beauty as a motivator in their social media campaign. This led to an increase in the awareness of cervical cancer symptoms, more women were then educated about the importance of booking a screening and there was a significant increase in the number of women who said that they would take steps to attend a cervical screening. The campaign has now expanded into settings outside social media, such as GP surgeries.
This is just one example of how market research and the actions can really make a difference.

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