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How to take the stress out of scheduling your respondents

We all know how difficult it can be to find the perfect participants for healthcare market research. So when you do find the right respondents who fit all the necessary criteria, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. There’s just one thing left to do before your research kicks off – scheduling. And for a lot of researchers, that’s where the headache begins.

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From HCPs and their hectic work schedules to patients bound by hospital appointments, scheduling can quickly become a nightmare for even the most accomplished market researcher. But with over 25 years of experience, we’ve got tons of tricks up our sleeves to make sure your scheduling goes as smoothly as possible. Read on to find out more;

Make time for telephone validation

Yes we’re going back a step here, but before you even get started with your scheduling, you need to verify your participants on the phone during the recruitment stage. It might take up a few minutes of your time, but it will save you from a scheduling drama further down the line. By chatting to your respondents on the phone and running through a qualifying questionnaire, you can be 100% sure you’ve got the right people for your research before you start scheduling – something that is especially important if you have very specific criteria. 

There’s another benefit to phone validation too: as well as being sure you’ve got the right respondents you can also start to build a rapport with them, which means they will be more willing to open up – something that is especially important when dealing with sensitive subject matters in healthcare market research. And because they’ll have that initial connection with you, they’ll be even less likely to drop out – so all of your time spent scheduling will be worth it!

Make sure you communicate

The art of successful scheduling is all down to open and frequent communication – and not only will regular communication make your scheduling much easier, but it’s another way to build on that all-important rapport with your respondents. Once they’ve been booked for the project and you’ve sent a confirmation email, continue to keep in touch with them until the project begins. If you are scheduling really far in advance, you should also make sure you give your participants a reminder call or email a month before as well as in the weeks and days leading up to the research too.

This is especially important when dealing with busy HCPs with complicated shift patterns who might simply forget the time and date of the research, but it’s also important to communicate regularly with patients too. From making sure they remember to keep the date or even just allowing them enough notice to plan their travel, it’s important to stay in the front of their mind. Basically, if you want to make sure your scheduling goes smoothly, you need to regularly talk to your participants and make it as easy as possible for them to take part. Which leads us onto our next point;

Work out your scheduling early on

When it comes to scheduling your participants, it’s all about what works best for them rather than what is easiest for you. Put yourself in their shoes and try and see things from their perspective, and then plan accordingly. For example, if you are scheduling research with HCPs, you need to take into account their busy schedules and you’ll also need to fit in around patients’ lives too. It also might be worth offering physicians a higher incentive to make it worth their while to take part, and you should also allow more recruitment time too.

Not only that, but if you are conducting research such as focus groups with both HCPs and patients, you need to be careful to offer enough time slots to make sure they don’t bump into each other which could jeopardise patient confidentiality. With so much to juggle, it’s worth over-recruiting to be on the safe side so you are completely prepared for any no shows on the day and save you scrambling around at the last minute searching for physicians that specialise in a specific area or patients taking a certain medication.

Check out this blog on over-recruiting to find out more.

Consider all the logistics

If you want your scheduling to be successful, the devil is in the detail. So if you are conducting a focus group or interview, as well as making sure there are enough time options available for everyone taking part, you also need to think about your venue and how far your respondents need to travel on the day. Busy HCPs or patients with conditions that make it difficult for them to travel might not want to journey long distances – so we’d recommend finding a location that’s not too far from the hospital or a venue that’s not too far from home for patients.

Alternatively, when it comes to in home interviews, make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to travel between different destinations and that you have left enough time between each interview to get to your next destination without running behind schedule. By considering every possible detail beforehand, you can schedule your research accordingly and make sure everything runs smoothly on the day.

Be specific with your recruiter

Finally, if you’re using an outside recruiter to source participants for your healthcare market research, make sure you are clear and upfront with them from the beginning. They’re going to need as much info as possible if they’re going to organise the research to the best of their ability, so make sure they know absolutely everything upfront.

From the earliest start time to the latest possible finish time and any additional requirements in between, by ensuring they’re in the know they can plan and schedule accordingly. The more info you give them, the easier it is for them to do their job – especially when juggling participants with specific criteria and working to a range of schedules in healthcare market research.

To sum up, although there is a lot to think about when it comes to scheduling, if you keep a cool head and run through everything logically there’s not reason why it has to be a stressful experience. Just remember to prepare for every eventuality – and if you have all bases covered, you’ll end up being pleasantly surprised by how smoothly everything goes!

For more helpful hints on how to ensure your fieldwork goes smoothly, download our guide.