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How consumer research innovations can help boost health intelligence

There is nothing wrong with proven market research methodologies. For many years crucial business decisions in healthcare have been made based on input gathered from seemingly straightforward ATUs and brand tracking, online surveys and face-to-face interactions. And we do not envisage this will change. Going “all digital” and applying the latest tools will not automatically guarantee sound market research. Nevertheless, we have great examples of how innovative approaches used in consumer research can make a difference in both the outcome and impact of market research in health when used exclusively or added to existing proven techniques. Let’s inspire you by highlighting some examples.

  1. Bottom-up free communication that connects insights and creates innovations

While digital qualitative research platforms in consumer research are here to stay, their application in health projects (especially B2B) is still not always top of mind. However, these digital sessions, in all of their forms, actually do have a proven track record in health research. Using platforms, such as online communities or chat sessions, to gain qualitative insights could add value to traditional research methods in multiple ways. It’s not only about enabling you to engage more easily with those targets that are difficult to bring into a central location – be that key opinion leaders, geographically dispersed targets or patients. But the bottom-up free communication and the participants’ anonymous status help them communicate more freely about detailed and often personal medical issues. They’re inclined to provide insights into “a day in the life” by sharing multimedia that shows them administering a drug, their interactions with their caregivers and more.

  1. Passive measurement, from online behavior to emotions

When optimizing patient support programs and information about diseases and treatments, you need to understand how patients orient themselves on the internet. Traditional research techniques, like online surveys, are based on recall alone, not actual behavior. Using a passive measurement tool, as used in consumer research, can fill the digital blind spot many brands have regarding their customers’ online behavior throughout the disease journey. By assessing the impact these tools had on how patients made their medical decisions, one could optimize the digital approach and assets to meet patients’ specific needs by patient type and disease state.

Other ways of passive measurement using new technologies could help you get better emotional insights into key stakeholders. Think of concept testing when asking participants about their opinions and thoughts. New validated techniques that digitally analyze the voices of respondents on their emotional state or facial expressions help you better analyze and understand respondents’ feelings and emotions over just a simple Q&A interview approach.

  1. In the moment, on the spot!

The simple use of mobile-based research, like in the consumer space, with in-the-moment, real-time feedback from both HCPs and patients, is becoming increasingly valuable. It provides rich voice recordings, as well as a multimedia perspective, and allows us to understand our customers in more detail. It creates depth and context to real-world situations and challenges that key stakeholders find themselves dealing with each day.

  1. Virtual reality techniques to simulate the pharmacy or the GP office

And what about the growing opportunities of virtual reality research, which is being applied in consumer research more frequently nowadays? We have explored several ways to also apply these techniques in health research. Think of a simulated pharmacy setting where you can test in-store behavior digitally among large groups of potential healthcare consumers. Not only does this virtual store shelf simulation help you to optimize packaging and design, but even simulated recommendations and dialogue with the healthcare professional (HCP) can help measure the impact of recommendations that might be successfully used for forecast exercises. These techniques, which are engaging for respondents, as well as being cost- and time-efficient, help you adapt to scenarios by changing environmental cues or dialogue. In this way you can refine messages and materials, and even do forecasting by using the simulated prescribing environment, instead of the artificiality of a choice task allocation.


It’s a brave new evolving world with key healthcare stakeholders embracing innovative tools that examine not just their feedback, but their behavior, not just their words but their more revealing voices or facial expressions. With the rise of chat rooms and communities, patients have a comfort zone for more in-depth exploration of their concerns in an anonymous environment. These and other innovations by themselves, or in tandem with existing health research, like brand trackers or ATUs, provide an opportunity for a more in-depth look into your targeted healthcare stakeholders. Let these new avenues for engagement be an invitation to healthcare pioneers like yourself to shape more informed strategies that look to the future and boost health intelligence like never before.

This article was co-authored by Chantal Bayard-Savelkouls and Steve O’Hara. To share your thoughts, email or leave a comment below.

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Predictive analytics are the next big idea in healthcare industry, the next evolution in statistics, and roles will change as a result.