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Healthcare Research in China and Brazil

July 12, 2012

This article is re-posted from User Centric’s blog.

One of the most useful traits a UX consultant can possess is the ability to be flexible and creative across an endless range of situations.  Our work is rarely routine and we like it that way.

A recent healthcare study in China and Brazil reaffirmed our strategies and demonstrated that a strong understanding of international research logistics is key to successfully capturing data in the most time-efficient manner.

Are we speaking their language? Healthcare market disparities between countries

During this particular healthcare study, roles, titles and treatment practices differed significantly between markets.  This had implications for both the type of participant we would be able to recruit, and the ability of the participant to relate to the stimulus.  Given this, we worked with our clients to get a good understanding of the local reality in each country and then submitted country-specific screeners to our local partners to translate.  The additional research proved vital to a successful test.

Time is relative

As participants in Brazil are recruited, we often rely on our local partner to guide us in scheduling.  In Brazilian culture, timeliness has a different meaning than in the U.S. so we always devise a plan for accommodating late-arriving participants while still maintaining a schedule for our clients and consultants. In China, however, the participant show rate was excellent and nearly all were on time for their sessions, which is typical of this market.

Not lost in translation

In both China and Brazil, our partners assigned experienced moderators who had previously been involved in healthcare research.  It proved exceedingly helpful that moderators were briefed well in advance allowing them to learn the interface and offering ample time to clarify questions.

Although moderators in both countries were fluent in English, translators are typically involved in the project preparation.  Especially in healthcare research, it is important translators become familiar with the very specific terminology that would be mentioned by participants.  They were provided with localized lists of medications and common terms to use in their simultaneous translations.  Our partners in China were able to engage one of their preferred translators for our study, a woman who had interpreted diabetes studies for them and whose mother was a diabetic.  This additional expertise was a bonus we hadn’t dared to expect!

Technically, we didn’t worry

We sometimes take for granted our constant communication between moderators and observers.  We use instant messaging during sessions to support the moderator, provide clarification and relay client questions as they arise.  Knowing that internet issues are common in both China and Brazil, we chose a hardwired connection instead of the wireless option.  This knowledge and experience avoided sessions being derailed and made for less stressful test days.

Our very specific lab setup required our local partners to be flexible and creative with their recording equipment.  Experience with our partnersassured us they would be able to meet our client’s needs.  In both China and Brazil, we clarified exactly what we needed through the exchange of sample videos and screenshots.  This avoids the worry and risk of us lugging test equipment across borders as potential of delays from customs or damage during transportation is always possible.

While we learn from every project, in the end, experience matters.  A long standing relationship with our international partners and years of managing global and healthcare research enables us to anticipate and side-step problems and logistical challenges.

UX researchers, what challenges have you faced while conducting global research and how did you tackle them?

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