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After two years of sitting at home, being out and connecting with others in the industry is energizing. EPHMRA’s UK One Day Meeting in London last week was one of the first opportunities for Threadline to meet attendees from all corners of the healthcare market research industry. And when we weren’t at our booth giving out books, we were absorbed in the content shared by a group of brilliant speakers. So here’s the rundown of our favorite ideas and our take on what they mean for the healthcare market research industry:

1. Accessibility, diversity, and community must be priorities post-pandemic.

The Idea: In the face of the pandemic, organizations and agencies had to approach research in new and innovative ways. Hannah Osborn and Alice Welch from reviewed strategies like online communities, QR codes placed around participant homes linked to micro-surveys, and virtual and augmented reality methodologies that helped keep companies connected to insights despite physical distance. 

Threadline’s Take: Though these strategies were critical during the pandemic, insight organizations should not ignore their benefits beyond it. The technology that gave organizations access to insights despite the pandemic is the same that can provide access to often overlooked communities excluded by traditional recruiting and research methods.

2. Inclusive and representative insights require rethinking the entire research project – not just the recruit.

The Idea: Recruiting and research techniques aren’t the only ways to improve the quality of market research. Anne-Sophie Lenoir from Branding Science and Ranj Hayre from Just Worldwide emphasized the value – and necessary investment – of designing research to be more inclusive from the ground up. They also noted that representation is not one-size-fits-all. For example, a representative sample in Spain will look very different from Switzerland.

Threadline’s Take: Inclusivity requires a more thoughtful, deliberate approach to every project. Insight organizations must design screeners to capture audiences who might not typically participate. The choice of methodology and length of the interview can impact who participates and how comfortable they feel sharing. Also, don’t forget to make sure your approach is ethical.

3. Insights are for more than just marketers.

The Idea: Jeet UppalNeil Van Der Linde, and Kirsty Pegram from BMS shared the insights they uncovered by studying clinical trial experiences for investigators and patients. They helped the clinical trial teams better understand how to improve the experience for patients and physicians enrolled in BMS trials.

Threadline’s Take: While the clinical trial team walked away with a clearer understanding of their key stakeholders, we wondered what other departments would benefit from the power of insights. Could the procurement department improve savings by better understanding how agencies engage with their organizations? How might operations enhance productivity with employee insights in hand? The opportunities for insights stretch far beyond the brand.

4. Technology won’t replace market research, but it could make it easier to inspire empathy.

The Idea: The technology isn’t coming. It’s here. That’s the conclusion reached by Fran Ayalasomayajula from Reach Healthcare and Chloe Cangardel at Ispsos Strategy3. Virtual reality and augmented reality have reached a point where it’s much more affordable and easier to manage. Chloe should know. She evaluates technology on the bleeding edge of healthcare, and she’s seen VR/AR grow up from glitchy, hot headsets into genuinely immersive experiences. Moore’s Law predicted this technology would be easier to get and use (creating or modifying virtual spaces can be done by anyone now).

Threadline’s Take: It’s the immersive element of VR and AR that piqued our interest – and not in the direction you might think. Virtual reality immerses participants in new spaces or experiences, such as a clinic or pharmacy. Could these technologies be used with clients? Imagine how much empathy could be inspired if marketers and salespeople would immerse themselves in the patient’s experience? How differently might packaging be if its designers had to walk the halls of clinics in developing countries? Of course, putting on a headset will never replace the in-person experience, but it could help more people on the team be exposed to insights in ways never possible before.

5. Insight department don’t just want insights – they want consultants that can connect dots.

The Idea: Yvonne Engler at Bayer and Mike Pepp and Carolyn Chamberlain at Blueprint Partnership conducted a study with pharma insight clients to predict the industry’s future. While we have some questions about the Swarm methodology (Is a crowd forced into consensus smarter than the crowd?), the predictions raised several eyebrows and nods of agreement. Key among them was the role of the consultant. 

Mike and Yvonne noted that agencies working in silos would not be able to keep up with those helping their clients connect all of the dots and all of the departments. The pair also predicted that the value of data-driven insights would come down as it becomes easier and cheaper to attain.

Threadline’s Take: Our value must go beyond the report. Our presence must be beyond the insights department. There is no room for handing off a deliverable before heading for the exit. Instead, the consultant who sees the bigger picture will be critical to the organization’s success.

We were also thrilled to hear that the role of qualitative insights will only increase over time, as it’s one of the few areas that require a truly customized approach and a nuanced understanding. The data helps healthcare companies understand the what, when, and how of patient or physician behavior. But with that influx of data sources, they will need qualitative methods and approaches to get to the why behind those behaviors.

6. If you’re trying to understand people, you need behavioral science.

The Idea: We couldn’t help but love this last session. Rhiannon Phillips and Katy Irving from HRW walked the team through a series of behavioral science concepts that are often at play in healthcare research. A quick summary of our favorites:

Satisficing: the portmanteau of satisfying and sufficing – or when people accept a less-than-ideal option if it crosses an acceptable threshold. It’s not entirely satisfying, but it will suffice for now.

Social Proof: When we choose something because someone we admire made the same choice. Think celebrity endorsements or KOL opinions.

Optimism Bias: The feeling it will be all right in the end regardless of the data supporting the opposite.

Threadline’s Take: Insight organizations prioritize understanding human behavior. And behavioral science is at the forefront of that task. A psychological approach to insights can’t just be an afterthought, it must be the framework through which insights are understood.

Our first conference in a long time was a success.

That’s a wrap on our first conference in a long time. Madeline and Kristian had a blast giving out their favorite books and exploring London. The weather was also top-notch – though most locals warned them that it was abnormal.

We’re curious to hear what your favorite parts of the event were. And if you grabbed one of our books, let us know what you think. We’re always ready for an insights book club discussion!

Madeline Duran and Kristian Aloma are smiling in front of Tower Bridge in London.
Madeline Duran and Kristian Aloma are smiling in front of Tower Bridge in London.