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A beginner’s guide to online medical focus groups

Online medical focus groups offer a convenient, low-cost alternative to traditional focus groups, eliminating the need for travel whilst still delivering high-quality, in-the-moment qualitative insights – and as broadband speeds continue to quicken and online research platforms thrive, online focus groups are set to rise in popularity across all market research sectors.They are especially beneficial for the medical fieldwork sector: thanks to the lack of geographical restrictions, online focus groups that take place via webcam make it possible to reach out to experts and KOLs who there may only be a small number of in the country or that are too busy to travel. Similarly, it also enables groups to be conducted with patients that have low-incidence diseases who are likely to be spread across the country or those who find it difficult to travel to a central venue. If you have been asked to carry out an online medical focus group, read on for our beginner’s guide and ensure you get the most out of your fieldwork project.

First things first, you should make sure there is as much information as possible available for your respondents and recruiters from the get-go. By making sure there is enough information available, your respondents will know exactly what they are expected to do and will therefore be more willing to take part. It’s also worth including an overview of what the study is in the discussion guide so the recruiter can see what it is you are looking to achieve – this can then be used when screening respondents so recruiters know exactly where to probe to make sure your agency or recruitment team is finding you exactly who you need for your online focus group . You should also be sure to think about your logistics and write down a plan of action for who is doing what at what stage.

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Ensuring successful recruitment and validation before the research begins is also vital to make sure everything runs smoothly. From ensuring that respondents are genuine to checking they meet the required criteria and are suitable for the research, the screening and validation process is key to the success of online medical focus groups. We would recommend a double-screening approach, whereby the participant completes an online questionnaire, followed by a telephone call to confirm their answers and take them through the rest of the screener if they qualify. You can also use probing questions in the initial screener to understand your respondents’ technological abilities, allowing you to review how often they use their device as well as what device they use. By getting an understanding of their technological abilities, you can ensure the necessary instructions are in place so it is easy for them to participate.

In addition to step-by-step instructions, you should also ensure there is technical support in place and that your respondents have contact details for someone who can help them with technical issues during the on-boarding process. If there are problems and no help, respondents will lose interest, especially if they have to wait for their queries to be passed through a number of people. Similarly, a clunky process can also cause frustration and dropouts. You don’t want participants to be bogged down with technical troubles when they need to be concentrating on providing substantive responses for your research, so make sure that these details are taken into consideration when choosing your software and setting up your in-house team structure or agency partnerships.

As well as ensuring there is the right support in place, you should also make sure your software is not too technical. Adobe Connect offer a great platform that we regularly use; watch this demo for more information. Respondents are usually of a range of ages with different grasps on technology – and it needs to be at a technical level that everyone can understand.

The nature of online qualitative market research means that participants will be frequently asked to upload and review images, annotate documents or navigate around a platform. Therefore it’s important that this is easy to do.

You should also think about your software usability. Is your software both Mac and PC friendly? Does it work across all devices? After all, it’s not just important that your software has all the right features; one of the biggest considerations is whether or not healthcare professionals can use it whilst at their hospital or surgery. We often find that there are firewalls in place that prevent users from being able to run such software, so we would recommend finding this information out early on and suggesting that the interview takes place at home.

As people now do everything online from using a fitness device to check their daily number of steps to using an app to remind them when to take their medication, online privacy and reliable security measures are more important than ever. This is equally true for online medical focus groups, where the participants are likely to be sharing personal, sensitive information via an online portal. To ensure the privacy of your respondents, you should seek out software that provides – at the very least – .

When conducted properly, online medical focus groups are a great way to gather insightful, qualitative data quickly and efficiently. There are a huge number of benefits to online focus groups: from live polling for quick data and screen sharing for showing documents and web usability studies to backroom chat functions for client interaction,online focus groups are transforming market research.

Here at GKA, we’ve got a wealth of experience in online medical focus groups and can help you with the entire process, from recruiting participants to providing technical support and moderator training.