Maximizing Healthcare Research: Best Practices in Using Research to Its Highest Potential – Healthcare

Getting Started: Questions to Ask YourselfOrganizations have begun investing heavily in market research once again. In fact, the American Marketing Association reported in September 2011 that marketing research firms were enjoying a much needed upsurge in revenues. This, after a dismal stretch when most companies were firmly ensconced in survival-versus-growth mode.In comparison, the healthcare industry has remained strong throughout the past several years. It successfully competes against every industry for consumers’ business, because more important than owning the latest tech gadget or luxury car is ongoing good health and wellness. Also, healthcare organizations are well-practiced in conducting patient satisfaction and utilization surveys, as well as community assessments.And yet, many organizations, including healthcare, are often negligent in taking insights gleaned from marketing research to the next level by interpreting their customers’ perspectives-daily routines, everyday concerns and top priorities, for instance. In fact, many often feel as though initiatives resulting from research efforts go largely unnoticed within the communities they serve. What might be the cause?Messaging: Whereas one group might be responsive to your current message, another group may not. In considering whether your words communicate what you want, begin with a look at your own expertise. For instance, MD Anderson, whose medical center is based in Houston, TX, is synonymous with cancer treatment worldwide. In fact, its mission is clearly stated to “eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation, and the world through outstanding programs that integrate patient care, research and prevention.” In evaluating your own messaging, begin with one simple question: What do you want people to say when they walk away from your facilities?Consumer Track: Consider the typical daily journey taken by consumers who know you, as well as those who don’t. In marketing speak, this is essential to understanding the steps in the “buying” process – pre, during and post – when consumers are most open to influence. In application to healthcare organizations, understanding the community-at-large adds another layer to this tracking process. Ask yourself: What does my community want?Media Relationships: Even armed with data from the most comprehensive studies, organizations will see little success in reaching their audience if their messages aren’t effectively communicated. It starts with messaging, but continues with the means to deliver these insights. A changing media landscape raises questions about the effectiveness of planned awareness campaigns. Also, the continued role of social and mobile media raises the number of avenues to reach and interact with consumers. Often that leads to a shot-in-the-dark approach, which gains little exposure. Now consider this: Where have I seen a return on investment?Brand Awareness: What Is It?At the birth of any brand, building positive awareness is top-of-mind. Yet throughout a brand’s life and evolution, awareness is a concept that should not be de-prioritized. In fact, awareness studies should be performed regularly to take a pulse and measure against already established benchmarks.Not only do you need to be sure people are aware of your existence, but you also need to know their perceptions of your organization, positive or negative. An Attitude and Awareness Study helps you keep track of how well people know you and what they think of you. It also allows you to modify your messages to accentuate the positives, address the negatives and build your brand over time.Perspective Shift: Who Are You Missing?Rather than spending the bulk of time evaluating the more reassuring group of respondents who both know and like you best, start with those with little or no awareness. It is with them that the greatest opportunity may exist. Begin by performing a gap analysis, which will further define who you are reaching versus who you are missing. In other words, a gap analysis measures the gap between actual and potential performance, thus allowing you to create a roadmap meant to illustrate how to close the gaps. Before moving on, ask yourself:
• Who are we missing?
• Why are we missing them?
• Are we not where they are?What are the issues facing those who know you best, and use you most?Perhaps the group who knows you best identified way-finding as their biggest challenge with your building or campus layout. They walk into your facilities and are immediately overwhelmed by the possibilities of where to go. With that insight, you can create an intuitive plan for consumers to successfully maneuver within your building. While way-finding was top-of-mind for a slight majority, what are the next five to ten challenges on their list? Have they been addressed? Return to your research to ensure you have considered all the implications identified before putting it back on the shelf.How do you find out who you are missing?Imagine that a community hospital has gone through this process and finds three potential targets they aren’t effectively reaching: Expectant mothers, men who are avid runners and women aged 50 to 55. Each has his/her own very distinct consumer track and healthcare needs. Perhaps one potential group fits within this hospital’s expertise more than others.As a result, this previously underserviced target group takes center stage in further qualitative research and future communications efforts. A series of three traditional, face-to-face focus groups per target is often an ideal approach, as it allows an organization to see, hear and observe a group they most wish to reach. While connecting via social networking is quickly moving beyond the basic survey template, it remains a social domain, first and foremost, and may not be the best option for new target research. As has been the case with social media generally, however, expect its further integration in research practices as technology and usage continue to evolve.Through a combination of proper messaging and media outreach, as well as testing and tracking return on investment, research efforts not only remain an integral part of planning, but also in positioning your business as a community leader.How do you develop a deeper understanding of what consumers want?Ask a lot of questions.
Ask yourself, your organization leaders, your staff, your loyal customers, your potential customers.Rethink what you do.
Equipped with insight, remain open to possibility, especially with those who are in the dark as to who you are.Align your strategies.
Research is meant to affect an organization from top to bottom – from the design of your facility to your communication tools.Act.
You have the means to transform your organization, community and potentially, your industry.