Closing the Gap in Healthcare Research: Linking Inquiry, Insight, and Implementation

Cheryl Stone

Cheryl Stone

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Seasoned healthcare marketers know that there are few things more frustrating than research that is never used to inform decision-making about what services to offer, whether a new location is needed, or even if you should expand office hours. When this occurs, time is wasted, dollars are squandered, and opportunities are missed. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, your internal reputation as a marketing professional gets dinged.

To make sure that inquiry, insight, and implementation are linked, we suggest that you follow a short, eight item checklist that Stamats uses to help guide its clients through research in the healthcare market.

1. Assemble Your Team

First, assemble a project team that includes representatives from research (the people who will design and execute the study), marketing (the people who will implement the findings), and finance (the people who will pay for the study). Involving these three groups is a critical first step.

2. Inquiry

Second, identify the big question to be answered. In other words, you must, at the outset, fully understand the “what” or reason for the study. Perhaps you are wondering why the number of outpatients in gerontology is declining or why the new women’s center is having difficulty gaining traction.

While this step may seem obvious, it is still surprising how many research studies launch without a clear sense of what they are trying to find out or how the marketing team will actually use the data.

Clarity on the “what” will help you focus on those questions and issues that are truly essential. It will also help guide your decision about how much time and money to invest in the study. Big questions generally require bigger budgets. Finally, it allows you to think about the research methodology to be used and how you will analyze the data.

3. Determine Participants

Third, identify the “who.” In other words, who—current patients, prospective patients, healthcare providers, suppliers—has the answer to the big question you are asking? Understanding the “who” will give you an initial sense of the population size. It will also provide insight into how difficult it might be to reach this audience and guide your decisions about which is the most suitable research methodology.

4. Using Results

Fourth, think carefully about how the results of the study will be used. In other words, what actions are you willing to undertake if supported by the research. This is enormously useful as you think about the questions to be asked. For example, if you anticipate refining your communication strategy for reaching prospective clients, it is important to ask respondents about their media habits.

5. Perform the Study

Fifth, execute the study. At this stage, the goal is all about utilizing best practices to enhance confidence in the study and its findings.

6. Insights

Now it is time to analyze the data. At this point it is very important to match the level and type of analysis with the sophistication of not only the project team, but the healthcare marketing team. It does little good to analyze data beyond the level of understanding of those who will operationalize it. Hopefully, initial thoughts about analysis were discussed at the “what” and “who” stages of the project.

7. Report Your Findings

This next step is twofold.

To begin, the research team should write the initial report/presentation. Their goal is to ensure that the research is analyzed, interpreted correctly, and organized around the big question to be answered.

Next, present the research report to the project team so the entire team can have a role in turning the data into insights and insights into action. Again, keep the big question in mind. The team must resist the temptation to spend time on interesting findings at the expense of essential findings.

8. Implementation

The last step in the process is for the project team to develop an implementation schedule. This schedule identifies specific actions generated by the research, when they will be implemented, and by which member of the healthcare marketing team.

Linking inquiry, insights, and implementation is not difficult as long as you follow this short checklist.

If you have any questions about this blog, wish to further understand the best practices that support great healthcare research, or need help with a marketing plan for your most important audiences, please contact Nadine Brock, Research Director.

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