Editor’s Intro: While the market research industry is being forced to change across many industries, healthcare presents many unique challenges. Steve Orlick of Toluna offers an important perspective on how the changing landscape of healthcare in the US affects the ways in which industry gathers and uses insights from both patients and healthcare providers.
It would be hard to point to an industry that has experienced more change than healthcare. Post-ACA (Affordable Care Act), ad agencies, consultancies and health-related companies of every kind are struggling to understand an environment where change is a constant. That, of course, has created a challenging situation for insights professionals as they work to help clients understand the changing needs of healthcare consumers.
The Voice of the Patient Reverberating Across the Industry
An industry that was slow to understand and respond to the changing needs of the consumer now employs the most up-to-date tools and methodologies to harvest and interpret consumer insights. This changing geography in healthcare, of course, follows on the heels of similar changes in industries like travel, retail and banking…but in healthcare the consumer-driven revolution has been particularly dramatic. With the advent of sites like WebMD and Everyday Health, consumers suddenly had access to a universe of information about every medical condition imaginable. (Never was the old axiom “information is power” truer.) And with the rise of social media sites, a range of patient communities has formed. In fact, today there are online communities for patients with every known condition.
As a result of this constantly growing awareness, more and more patients are insisting on having a voice in their own care, rather than being dictated to by physicians or other caregivers. That makes it important for players in the industry to understand patient behavior: How is a patient likely to act when diagnosed with a particular condition? What kinds of medications and other treatments are they apt to choose, and where will they turn for help and advice? What kind of coverage are they really seeking from medical insurance companies? That means finding patients where they gather—for instance in online communities and support groups—and REALLY listening to what they have to say. Patient forums, for example, can give consumers a chance to sound off on a range of topics, while providing researchers with a wealth of information and serving as a valuable recruitment tool.
Through interactions with patients and patient groups, insights professionals are meeting consumers where they live, gaining a steady flow of new information. In fact, across the healthcare geography, insight gathering is becoming increasingly granular with the widespread use of advanced segmentation techniques to help create a laser focus. This is true in every area of healthcare, including biotech and pharmaceuticals, where consumer insights help companies target services to the specific needs of individual consumers, leading to important treatment advancements. And this process is going to continue, with constantly expanding sources of data and information leading to dramatic improvements in healthcare across the globe.
Physicians: Insight From Lynchpins in the System
In this climate of change, researchers are also working to gain a holistic, more granular view of physicians, who of course drive so much change in the industry. The problem in gaining insights from physicians has always been the very busy lives they lead; they typically have little time to spare and often receive as many as 10 to 15 invitations a day. So researchers are using advanced segmentation methods to ensure they are targeting caregivers with the most appropriate opportunities. In that way, they are rapidly gaining invaluable insights from lynchpins in the healthcare system, without wasting the caregivers’ time. It seems clear that, even as the voice of the consumer reverberates across the healthcare landscape, physicians will continue to wield incredible influence in every area of the industry. And, as the pace of changes continues to accelerate, it remains important to gain their perspectives quickly and efficiently.
The Need for Speed = Agile Research
Generally speaking, speed is the order of the day in healthcare, with clients like hospital systems and pharmaceutical companies demanding more information faster to give them the ammunition they need to deal with the torrents of change rippling through the environment. This need for agile research has meant the use of a growing list of advanced technologies—digital tracking, AI, machine learning and collaboration—to help zero-in on the right targets, garner critical information faster, and instantly apply advanced analytics. DIY options like Toluna’s automated all-in-one consumer insights platform offer healthcare clients the tools they need to deal with the growing need for speed.
But it seems clear that, as new technologies come on the horizon and the voice of the consumer wields even more influence, the rate of change in healthcare will continue to accelerate. I believe that healthcare—and our approach to it—will be completely transformed over the next five years. It should be an interesting ride.