Transparency Market Research recently released a report that says the mobile healthcare market (mHealth), which currently sits at annual revenues of $1.3 billion, is poised for rapid growth over the next six years at a compound annual growth rate of 41.5%. This would put the industry at $10.2 billion in revenues by 2018. What is driving this growth and what can healthcare companies do to leverage mobile market research to their advantage?

The United States population continues to age, which results in a higher overall incidence of chronic diseases that need to be monitored in an ongoing way. At the same time, the widespread adoption of smartphones and other mobile devices has become ubiquitous among all segments of the population.

In the US, the number of mobile phones is already greater than the population by 17 million. Another driver for the rise of mHealth is the continued shortage of healthcare workers nationwide. If compensation from medical insurance companies to healthcare providers drops significantly, this shortage will only worsen.

Mobile technologies offer a way for physicians and their patients to interact more efficiently, creating the potential for a two-way flow of information that could lessen the number of in-office visits needed, saving precious healthcare dollars for doctors offices and patients who are struggling with paying for their medical expenses in tough economic times.

What Healthcare Companies Can Do

How can a healthcare company make the most of the rapidly growing mHealth market? One key to the puzzle is thinking through how mobile connections can help streamline existing operations rather than inventing whole new systems. The first thing on the agenda should be mining healthcare patient databases to identify the prevalence of conditions that lend themselves to monitoring through mobile technologies.

Take, for example, diabetes and the work of WellDoc Inc., a healthcare technology company. The company outfitted 163 patients with blood glucose monitoring equipment and a mobile app that allowed them to enter self-monitored glucose data into their mobile devices and then receive real-time coaching through cloud-based medical software to help manage their levels of glycated hemoglobin.

An overall statistically significant decline of 1.9% was achieved, as opposed to the .7% in the control group. In dollar figures, more than $218 billion is spent each year treating diabetes, and this mHealth approach could save up to $10,000 per patient in medical costs. Other top choices of conditions that could be monitored and improved through mHealth include obesity and hypertension.

The promise of mHealth is nothing short of revolutionary. To take full advantage of it, however, healthcare companies will need to be willing to think differently, act differently and accept new, closer, real-time relationship management with their clients and patients. It’s a win-win situation in the making that has the potential to increase the overall health of billions of people around the world.

Making the best brand decisions depends on getting the most accurate input from all relevant audiences—whether patients, caregivers, physicians, payers or allied health professionals.  In today’s multi-tasking world, however, it can be challenging to attract target segments to participate in healthcare studies—and even tougher to ensure they provide thoughtful, detailed responses.

SSI is committed to understanding what motivates people to take surveys. That’s why we ask participants at the end of every survey what they thought of the experience—and why.  In analyzing 600 random responses, we discovered characteristics that people agree ensure a great survey experience.

Healthcare Market Research

In Research, Cash Is Not Necessarily King!

If asked what makes respondents happy, most people would guess money or other tangible prizes.  Only 7 of our 600 respondents, however, mentioned rewards as a reason for their satisfaction—even though almost all received some compensation.

We often think we have to pay respondents to keep them contributing   To increase participation, however, it can be more important to understand respondents’ real motivators–the non-tangible rewards they identify as key in driving satisfaction:

Ease of use: Of our 600 respondents, 93 said they like surveys that are easy.  We often underestimate how cognitively difficult some surveys are. When we ask long, complex questions in a daunting format, such as a grid, it is hard work. People are willing to challenge themselves– but in the absence of live interviewers in the online world, we must remember to keep questionnaires simple.

Respect for their time: 84 respondents included the words “quick,” “short” or “fast” as a reason for being satisfied.  When we think of physicians dealing with overloaded schedules, caregivers coping with 24/7 demands and patients struggling their conditions, it’s clear why we need to keep questionnaires focused and to the point.

Relevance: If we can make a connection between the person and the survey content, we are rewarded with enthusiasm.  When research focuses on specific medical conditions, there is a natural relevance we can build on in our surveys.  For example, in a world of social networking, taking a survey can be another avenue for people to connect with those facing the same issues.  “It… would be interesting to know about others’ experiences in this area,” said one participant.  Relevance can be reinforced by letting respondents know their participation can guide future R&D efforts—or offering a donation to a charity supporting those suffering with the same disease.

Fun! Many people mentioned “fun” as the reason for their satisfaction–and 28 used the word “love.”  More people than we think “love” taking surveys!

Following these “rules” ensures a win/win.  Brand managers gain the reliable information they need to make effective decisions—and respondents have positive research experiences that motivate participation in future studies.

Contact Survey Sampling International

SSI is the premier global provider of data solutions and technology for consumer and business-to-business survey research, reaching respondents in 100+ countries via Internet, telephone, mobile/wireless and mixed-access offerings. SSI staff operates from 30 offices in 21 countries, offering sample, data collection, CATI, questionnaire design consultation, programming and hosting, online custom reporting and data processing. SSI’s 3,600+ employees serve more than 2,500 clients worldwide.

From powerful market forces like blockbuster drugs coming off patent, the demographics of aging baby boomers and budgetary constraints to the regulatory demands of the Affordable Care Act, a number of trends are converging to impact physician and patient behaviors. These changes affect the interests of every healthcare stakeholder. The business models of pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers and payers are changing rapidly.  Researchers need focused expertise and a broad level of understanding the fundamental shifts in market dynamics. Now more than ever the wider context of the healthcare ecosystem needs to be taken into account.

Healthcare Market Research

In addition, the way consumers and patients receive and share healthcare information is changing.  In a recent survey conducted by SSI about 1/3 of all respondents reported reading about prescription drugs online. The interest in prescription drugs spans all age groups, and among those 65+ years old more than 30% reported reading online postings about prescription products. Social media influences are growing. A social media or blog posting about a prescription product made by another person they know would likely influence almost 2/3 of respondents in our study.

So whether it’s the regulatory, legislative or structural changes impacting healthcare service providers or the demographic and technological changes affecting the way people communicate and gather information about their health researchers more than ever need to stop and think about not just where we are but where we’re headed when conducting healthcare research. Great change may also mean great opportunity for healthcare research.

What changes have you seen in the way you gather and communicate information about healthcare? And what changes are you seeing in terms of your own personal interactions with healthcare service providers?

As we all try to improve the reach and reliability of our medical sample, we are constantly looking for ways to build on what is currently available. As the migration to online data continues, it is important to understand that not all healthcare professionals are available online. Finding these HCPs who are not online and constantly providing responses to health studies is a key differentiator for market research companies as it allows them to deliver new perspectives to an ever crowded environment.

Healthcare CATI

CATI interviewing is one way that leading companies can augment and increase their current reach.

  • Not all healthcare decision makers, physicians or other healthcare professionals join online panels: The broadest universe of healthcare decision makers are available via CATI through samples derived from the AMA list and other professional organizations.
  • Because the CATI sampling frame is comprehensive, precision and accuracy are achievable: Using the AMA and other professional lists to reach new respondents also allows for consistent and verified sampling over time. Dialing protocols for CATI interviewing include callbacks and scheduled call times to increase response rates, which is especially important for the finite populations of hard to reach healthcare sample.
  • Telephone-verified healthcare B2B and health care provider respondents deliver higher quality data: You know who you are talking to, you know their role, you can confirm their level of responsibility in the decision making process and verify their contact information. They’re qualified and you’re sure of it.
  • Dedicated interviewing teams consist of educated, experienced professionals: CATI healthcare interviews are conducted by nurse practitioners who are able to accurately probe on questions allowing respondents to expand on their answer, leading to richer and more accurate data.

Used alongside or in support of online research methodologies, the use of CATI research for your projects will allow you to deliver broader, more accurate results to your clients. Finding varying voices and truly understanding their answers will set your research apart from your competitors in this ever more commodity based industry.

SSI research among 1,453 US adults conducted earlier this year shows that social media is popular among all age groups. In addition, there are “avid” social media users who spend more than 5+ hours a week social networking.  The avids are more likely to share their opinions about a brand and post comments to a discussion. They have the loudest voice so they can be important in spreading the word about a product.

The healthcare communications landscape is changing. Social media users search the internet for information about healthcare and specific medical conditions to better understand their conditions and options for treatment. The model of companies using one-way communication reaching out to patients is evolving. Social media offers the opportunity for two-way communications. There are challenges for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and a recent change in the way Facebook treats them could have implications for how drug manufacturers integrate social media with traditional media.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers were recently told by Facebook that they had to start allowing people to comment on their pages. Previously, Facebook had accommodated Pharma companies by assuring them their pages would be closed to public comment. Some reacted to the change by removing their Facebook pages. The Fair Balance requirement of the Food and Drug Administration means that drug makers can share benefits but also have to list risks and side effects of their products. That is why you see ads in magazines that are several pages long associated with drug advertisements.

It is a lot harder to communicate the full risks, benefits, and appropriate uses of a medicine in a social media channel like Facebook or Twitter. Drug companies are understandably cautious.  While it has held hearings on the topic the FDA has not yet issued official guidance on how these companies should use social media. One area of concern is how to police social media postings for inaccurate information about prescription drugs. What is the liability of a drug company if someone posts a comment that their drug provides a benefit in area X, which is not something the drug is approved to do?

Pharma companies benefit from two-way communication with their users when they conduct research among users and potential users of their products. They have the added challenge of navigating the changing communications landscape and social media. This is especially important as a number of very popular blockbuster drugs such as Lipitor, Plavix, and Singulair will lose patent protection between now and the end of 2012. This suggests growing need for market research around alternatives and the right media mix and messages that will keep users loyal to the brand. SSI’s healthcare capabilities can help keep all of the constituents involved: patients, caregivers, Physicians and  pharma companies stay connected through research with valuable two-way communication.

What online healthcare resources do you rely on and why?