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How to source the best participants for medical market research

No matter how much planning you do and whatever measures you put in place, a medical market research project is only as strong as its weakest respondent. Your respondents are the fundamental foundation for any successful project, the thing that can transform your research project from a good one into a great one. But how do you ensure your sample of respondents is a good one?

When it comes to medical market research, we all know that finding the right respondents can be something of a challenge. From low incidence diseases and location-restricted patients to time-pushed healthcare professionals, it can be tricky to find respondents who fit the right criteria. And when you do, you might end up seeing the same faces time and time again at your research days. But thanks to today’s technology, market research is making huge strides in sample quality, meaning you can be confident that you are constantly sourcing high-quality respondents for your healthcare market research.

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Read on to discover three types of respondents to look out for when selecting your sample;

1) Disengaged respondents

The problem

Now you’ve found the right respondents, you’re certain they are new ones and they definitely fit your criteria, you need to make sure they stay engaged. Disengaged respondents can have a devastating effect on the success of your research, which is why it’s so important to keep them engaged and interested to ensure they are generating good results and you are getting the most out of them.

The solution

If your participants feel like their thoughts and opinions are valued, they will be more likely to share and open up. It really is that simple. From the very beginning, try to adopt a personal approach. Of course, send multiple email invites to healthcare professionals and patients, but why not try and personalise your email – or even better, call them instead.

After all, you’re asking them to devote a few hours (or more) of their professional or home life to help you with your healthcare research, so it’s only natural that they would appreciate you taking the time to be a bit more personable.

You also need to be honest about what is expected of them from the beginning. What is being researched? What are they expected to do? And when? Without a clearly defined goal, you won’t get the results you need.

2) Fraudulent respondents  

The problem

Despite the overall benefits that come with the increased usage of technology, unfortunately, along with it comes the rise of fraudulent responses. Are the healthcare professionals that have applied for your project the right level of seniority? Do they see the number of patients that is required? And are the patients that responded really suffering from the specific symptoms you are researching? Sadly, technology enables people to pose as whatever they want to be behind a computer screen, so you can never be too careful.

The solution

First things first, you should consider using professional databases for instant validation and to ensure that the physicians taking part are who they say they are. You could also research specific treatment centres when putting together your sample; for example, if your healthcare market research involves talking to doctors treating patients with cystic fibrosis, start by researching specific treatment centres. You can also use larger, more centralised resources like the NICE, NHS and MIMS websites.

Similarly, when it comes to recruiting patients, it’s best to go through support groups and HCPs rather than unregulated online forums. Once you’ve got your shortlist, a good way to confirm validation of the respondents is by getting on the phone. By directly speaking to your respondents you can get a better idea of whether they are who they say they are. Ask specific questions that only someone dealing with a certain illness would know the answer to.

Healthcare market research

3) Repeat respondents 

The problem

You’ve sourced your respondents, you’re certain they fit the criteria and you’re ready to crack on with your research. But wait; does that face look familiar? One fear that many researchers have is that when it comes to a specialist target audience, the same individuals will respond to surveys or attend focus groups every time, limiting your research and resulting in bias. This can especially be the case if you are researching large cities such as London, Manchester or Birmingham.

The solution

In order to reduce the chances of seeing the same respondents over and over again, the solution is simple – find more respondents. One way to do this is to implement a snow-balling recruitment method and ask your existing respondents to refer you to others they know – perhaps professionally, through support groups or even through charities. Finally, to prevent dealing with the same respondents over and over again, create an exclusion list to help prevent you from seeing those that regularly take part in research or candidates that don’t fit the exact demographic you are looking for.

By asking exclusion questions as early on as possible, you can ensure that only the most suitable candidates go through all of the questions to save time. Of course, when it comes to medical market research, you will need to consider the implications all of this will have on your final sample size – if you are researching a rare disease, for example, it might not be feasible to employ all of these tactics as you have a limited number of respondents out there anyway.

Next up, if you are using technology in your medical market research, make sure the software you utilise is easy to use, that it can be used on the go and fit in around your respondents’ lives and that there’s someone around to help and answer questions 24/7.

When it comes to online qual, you should also try and keep tasks interesting by offering fun activities that appeal to them rather than complicated and time-consuming ones so they’ll stay focused.

Lastly, the most important rule of all – engage with them. If you don’t follow up with, talk to, and actively engage with your respondents right from the beginning, you can’t expect them to do the same for you.

If you are thinking about undertaking a healthcare market research project, it’s also important to make sure you choose the right sample size for what you are trying to achieve. Why not download our handy guide to find out more?

Healthcare Market Research