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Why are briefings so important in healthcare market research

Ever asked your market research recruitment agency to assist with a project and then been disappointed that the respondents they found weren’t quite what you asked for? If the answer’s yes, don’t worry –  it’s really easy to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The secret to recruiting great respondents is all down to successful communication  – and a good starting point is making you take the time to fully brief your agency.

A brief is a crucial element of every market research project, but it’s often the first thing to be dropped when it comes to the recruitment phase, the pressure is on and time is short. If you want to get the most out of your respondents and actually save time in the long run, though, a good brief is actually a pretty important step. Get it right, and your fieldwork agency or recruitment team will understand your clients’ business, the research objectives,  work to deliver maximum results and avoid costly mistakes. So how do you go about successfully briefing your agency? Read on to find out;

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Clarify and communicate goals and objectives

This is a fundamental part of any market research project because it will define the direction the research will go in and ultimately the results you will get. By communicating clear, defined goals to your recruitment agency you can make sure everyone knows where they stand from the beginning. Telling your recruitment agency your objectives means they can really get on board with your project and give you honest and helpful advice about whether or not your goals are actually achievable – and how you can reach them. Not only that, but by better briefing recruiters you can ensure they can better interpret whether or not a respondent is a good fit for your study – if they don’t understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve, it’s pretty hard to find the right people. We recently worked on a project where the client was looking for respondents from a combination of certain hospital types, this proved to be tricky and once we drilled down into what the client was specifically looking for, we were able to identify other avenues of recruitment, enabling us to speed recruitment up. This is the type of information that would be most useful when relayed at briefing stage.

Clear communication is even more important in healthcare market research because there are often specific criteria for patient recruitment, especially when dealing with sensitive subject matters or rare diseases – and considering this level of involvement is likely to deliver better results both in terms of initial response and the overall result, it’s definitely worth doing, however busy you are.

Healthcare market research

Define key dates and milestones

Are there any important project dates or key milestones that your agency needs to be aware of? For example, is there a certain date by which you need the recruitment complete or dates that last minute dropouts need to be replaced by? By setting out these dates from the beginning you can make sure you’re fully prepared for everything. Working backwards from the end date is your best bet and can give your agency all the deadlines they need to ensure everything gets done on time – and this is even more important in healthcare market research where busy schedules might result in HCP dropouts, and illness, inability to travel and medical appointments could impact patients’ attendance, too.

It’s also worth deciding when and how you will keep in touch with your agency at the beginning – for example, whilst emails might be enough every week at the start of the project, as the fieldwork itself becomes closer you will probably need weekly or even daily phone calls to check that everything is going according to plan.

Ensure screening criteria is clear

Another important part of the briefing process is to thoroughly explain the screening questionnaire so that your fieldwork agency can find the most relevant candidates for your healthcare market research. Make sure you’re clear about any flexibility around criteria so that they know the difference between nice-to-haves and absolutely essential criteria; not only will this help them source candidates who are the most perfect fit, but it will also mean they can go back to the not-so-perfect fits if recruitment proves tougher than expected. A good agency will give you lots of information about feasibility as you go, but it’s always good to have a backup plan especially when you’re dealing with a target audience that isn’t regularly researched or even in situations where things can change daily – for example if patients become too unwell to travel or if HCPs are too busy to take part. By making sure there’s a thorough screening process, you can ensure there are no hidden surprises that can impact your project and ruin your research before it’s begun.

Define who is in the team

Who is the main point of contact from your side? Who will be your main point of contact throughout the project on the agency side? This person will be responsible for the fieldwork on a daily basis so you should   speak to them  when you first brief the agency to ensure they fully understand the project. You should also make a note of any holidays or other factors that could influence the project so you can take ownership from the beginning, clearly outline everyone’s responsibilities and be prepared for every eventuality. It might also be an idea to define the roles of the team on an introductory call so your fieldwork agency knows exactly who should be included in the communication. Finally, remember to provide contact details of who will be in attendance on the day so that both your recruitment agency and the participants know who to contact if there are any issues or if they are running late.

Be clear on consent

Make sure your agency knows what is and isn’t shareable with candidates and also organises the appropriate consent forms or NDAs. This is particularly important around potential new product launches as well as data and security issues – and it goes without saying that when it comes to the often sensitive issues covered in healthcare market research, it’s more important than ever. A good guide of reference for the minimum you should expect from your agency is available from the MRS website, and Clause 23 in the BHBIA Legal and Ethical Guidelines also highlights what you should  expect from a recruitment agreement as well as other things that participants should be told before taking part in research including:

  • If and how viewing or recording will take place
  • The name of the agency or researcher conducting the discussion
  • Their rights – anonymity, confidentiality and to withdraw
  • What will happen to personal data collected at recruitment
  • The requirement for adverse event reporting

Get on the phone

Last but not least, a simple bit of advice – stop typing and get on the phone where you can. A lot of people are keen to communicate via email, but where possible, spare 10 minutes or so to get on the phone and talk to your agency. Not only can you explain your goals and objectives better, but it’s also a way to clear up any misunderstandings, build a rapport and increase the engagement between you – which means not only will you be able to overcome any barriers or confusion more easily, but it will also encourage them to work harder for you, too.

Why not download our ‘Five easy steps to build a screener that works’