Healthcare Market Research: Taking the Pulse of a Rapidly Changing Industry

No matter what role you play in the healthcare industry, constant changes make it imperative for vendors to use a variety of traditional and innovative tools to stand out above the crowd. Cynthia Porter, president of healthcare market research firm Porter Research, has helped hundreds of healthcare companies cull candid feedback from target stakeholders on a broad array of industry topics and has a unique perspective on emerging trends in the world of healthcare research. Here Porter shares her thoughts on some of the ways companies are using research to thrive in a competitive, rapidly changing landscape.

Dodge: What are the new areas of research you’ve seen in healthcare in the last couple of years?

Porter: One of the largest emerging areas in healthcare research is within the vendor market that sells to both payers and providers. Providers are also demonstrating new interest in consumer engagement studies as the patient/consumer becomes the primary driver of healthcare. Both payers and providers are exploring the best ways to connect with consumers.

With all of the changes in healthcare - from reform, to healthcare exchanges, to meaningful use - vendors are finding they need to take their products to market in new ways and many are turning to market research to meet that end. This covers everything from listening to market feedback on new needs and pain points, to positioning new products with target-market validated messaging. 

The third area that we are seeing growth involves companies in need of content. Businesses looking to demonstrate credibility in the competitive HIT arena, in particular, are turning to content drawn from research to do things like validate their solution’s impact and benchmark market trends. Research programs offer companies an opportunity to engage with their clients or prospects and share meaningful findings that they want to hear about. From whitepapers to webinars, research findings are often used to fuel a variety of marketing usage scenarios.

Dodge: With healthcare executives being so busy, how do you get the thoughts/views of C-level professionals?

Porter: With healthcare executives being busier than ever, Porter Research has had to switch research methodologies to one that adapts more readily to the busy C-suite. Many of our traditional in-depth telephone conversations or on-site focus groups have transitioned to online surveys and bulletin board focus groups, which allow both clients and executives to participate on their own time.

Porter uses the Billian database to target highly qualified C-level executives, knowledgeable on the topic at hand, who can then submit responses, anonymously or otherwise, to see where their peers stand and respond in kind. We find that many times online focus group responses are logged at night, when participants have time to give well thought-out responses.

Dodge: At what points in the business cycle do you feel market research is most crucial?

Porter: Businesses often view research as a ‘nice to have’ marketing budget item, but those that rely on research as part of their overall ‘Go to Market’ strategy quickly learn that it is always cheaper and fiscally more responsible to make sure you launch your solution right the first time. Market research should always be done at the front end, ahead of the development cycle, to ensure your solution meets the needs, wants and budgets of providers.

Secondly, as you move past development and into product launch, you want to make sure that you look at messaging language in solution positioning and align on words that will resonate with executives who will be looking to acquire your product. Evaluating product messaging should re-occur throughout the product lifecycle as areas like healthcare reform impact market experience.

In addition, net promoter score is what the big players in research use to paint a baseline of product perception for would-be buyers. This metric reflects how many people would be likely to recommend your product or solution. We find our clients constantly looking at this and other areas of customer experience on an annual basis.

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