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  • Writer's pictureIn-House Research

The Evolution of Healthcare Market Research

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

From cassette tapes to digital diaries...

My brother and I have been exposed to medical research since we can remember. Before starting In-House Research, our mother worked for a different healthcare research agency. We hear stories of Tim being in a baby carrier under her desk, while I remember running around the office and doing colouring in at various desks.

To keep me occupied while ‘Mother House’ finished off her latest fieldwork recruiting project, I would get assigned special jobs! Of course qualitative research in healthcare was very different in the late 80’s / early 90’s. I recall sitting in the store room, which was essentially wall-to-wall boxes of paperwork and used cassette tapes – the way focus groups were recorded. My ‘fun task’ was to pass these cassette tapes through a magnetic block three times, to wipe the contents so the tape was reusable for the next research interview. I must have wiped hundreds if not thousands of tapes during my ‘junior career’, and I think my only payment was a lemon sherbet from the receptionist’s desk.

In 1994 In-House Research was born. Mother House was focusing on UK based HCP recruitment, although I do remember as a 10-year-old conducting some door-to door patient surveys on the topic of the menopause. I have no idea what the respondents must have been thinking at the time discussing such a topic with a baby face.

The sound from In-House Research’s home office was the constant screeching tone of the fax machine receiving the latest signed confidentially form or questionnaire. Let’s not forget there was no internet or email back then. If it wasn’t the fax machine it was the franking machine in preparation of the twice daily trip to the post office.

Besides paper surveys, most of the fieldwork recruiting was for face to face interviews or focus groups. As soon as we were old enough to fashion a smart suit and make our way into central London, our careers progressed to being a ‘hostess’ or 'host' in a swanky hotel. Our job was to personally greet the healthcare professional, get the consent forms signed and offer sandwiches and refreshments until the moderator was ready to start the interview. It was such a big set up, with audio and video equipment hired in, courier services delivering materials and cash, multiple hotel rooms booked out, of course everyone’s travel paid for etc. Oh and it was months of planning.

And now...

Fast forward to the present day, and the healthcare research industry is almost unrecognisable. Quite often (and I guess this is why we are so popular) we get an email from a client in the morning requesting some HCP recruitment, and by the end of the day the research interview has been completed. Our agency clients can then spend a lot more time developing their pitch or planning out campaign ideas with the insights from the research.

While the introduction of email transformed pretty much every business in the World, the medical market research industry has certainly made bigger leaps. Let’s not forget the removal of physical boarders. Most of our interviews are conducted as web-assisted depth interviews. We literally have physicians from around the world joining advisory boards and focus groups from the comfort of their own home or workplace.

The advancement of this technology means that global healthcare research recruitment has never been so quick and ‘easy’. We can also deliver this to scale. Using our own website, we are now creating more and more online surveys for clients. Gaining insights from healthcare professionals and patients around the world…numbers in the hundreds and thousands. We are blurring the line between qualitative research and quantitative medical research.

So what's ahead?

With all that said, I really can’t help but wonder how the global healthcare research industry is going to evolve over the next 20 years. What technology will be prominent in understanding thoughts and opinions. How will we link with with say wearable devices and the quantified self to better understand patient wellness alongside interpretation? Will augmented and virtual reality make respondents even more ‘present’ in virtual focus groups? I guess we will just have to wait and see.

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