If you feel overwhelmed by the number of articles or blog posts about transformation in healthcare, you are not alone. Industry analysts seem to be racing with each other to be first with their lists of predictions and “megatrends.” With technology gaining momentum in redefining the “how” of healthcare delivery, a storm is on our horizon.
As a healthcare market researcher helping clients launch and refine their brands amid all this change, I’ve noticed five key trends in healthcare those of us in market research should keep our eye on.
1. Technological revolution
In his book “The Patient Will See You Now,” Dr. Eric Topol sums up the technological revolution very well by stating, “Just as the printing press was the great object around which modern culture has orbited, the smartphone and iMedicine are forcing a comparable transformation.” The influx of digital devices and the ever-growing popularity of social media are quickly changing treatment paradigms and physician-patient dynamics. Physicians embrace telemedicine and use numerous EHRs yet to be integrated into a single platform. Patients arm themselves with information from online sources and monitor their health via remote medical devices and wearables. As a result, a multitude of information sources are available and “virtual piles” of unstructured data are flooding healthcare organization databases aspiring to be cloud-based and cybersecure one day …
A rush for technological advancements does not seem to be leaving market research out. It is true that many so-called “new solutions” are just new technologies applied to traditional methods, such as mobile ethnography and online focus groups. However, innovative new tools enable inexperienced users to quickly start processing large volumes of different types of data, conduct sophisticated analyses and create powerful visualizations. Examples of such tools include OfficeReports, Second Prism, etc. Other tools focus on entering largely uncharted territories of research – for instance, biometrics – in order to gather supplemental insights that a research subject might not be able or willing to express verbally.
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2. Patient centricity
Although still in its infancy, personalized medicine is slowly chipping away at “one size fits all” healthcare. Patient centricity emerges as biotech pioneers make progress in decoding DNAs and tailoring treatment based on patients’ genetic makeup. But that’s not the only dimension of patient centricity we are going to see; equipped with digital technology, the empowered patient is becoming a major stakeholder across the healthcare industry. We’re seeing this in the increasing availability of information to evaluate physicians or hospitals with the best outcomes. It’s consumers monitoring their own health metrics with wearables. It’s a greater percentage of patients initiating physician discussions about the latest biological treatments.
As such, we anticipate an increasing number of companies engaging market research projects to better understand consumers, such as via patient journey work, decision drivers and barriers, unmet needs, etc.
3. Cost sensitivity
In light of increasing healthcare costs to patients, the pressures put on pharmaceutical companies and providers to curtail costs are mounting. At the same time, a shift from fee-for-service to value-based pricing becomes noticeable. What is more, payers started to require more price transparency to see how the money is being spent.
Healthcare cost considerations will affect market research to a greater extent. DIY research (e.g., SurveyMonkey) and research automation (e.g., text analytics) stand behind the notion of faster and cheaper research. Cost sensitivity, among other reasons, explains why compartmentalization, where either quantitative or qualitative research is conducted for a given project, may be falling by the wayside. While there still are projects where pure quantitative or qualitative research is applicable, hybrid approaches leveraging the digital presence of research subjects tend to gain on popularity. In many cases, blended approaches allow to collect more data from larger samples within a shorter period of time at a potentially lower cost. Music to our clients’ ears? I think so.
4. Surge in integration of healthcare providers
To achieve better clinical outcomes at lower prices, more primary care physicians, specialists and hospitals are joining into integrated healthcare delivery networks (IDNs). This trend is expected to continue as benefits of forming large organizations are numerous (i.e., greater negotiation power, comprehensive medical records, better quality of care, etc.). Newly consolidated entities will need to create, launch and manage new brands in order to differentiate themselves from established “behemoths.”
Given all these newly formed brands popping up, it would seem to suggest an increased need for brand-related research, such as exploration of the current market landscape, testing potential positioning and testing creative concepts.
5. Demand for agility
We’re seeing increasing pressures for brand teams to commercialize and launch their new products or new indications more quickly. This cascades down to increasing demands on the analytics and insights teams to turn around projects and provide insights driving brand decisions within significantly shorter time frames.
For a market researcher seeking to be a vendor of choice, therapy area expertise paired with excellent customer service is a good approach, but it’s not sufficient anymore. Our clients need us to be something more than just data providers. They need us to be trusted advisors who truly understand their business, are flexible and collaborate with them on a daily basis. Also, they need us to become data visualization experts, helping them present the most relevant data in an easy-to-absorb way so that real business value can be extracted right away. They seek guidance from market researchers who are able to put themselves into their shoes. Are you ready to guide the client in this perfect storm, or will you swim with the tide?