Designing Patient Research to Ensure Quality Results



designing patient research to ensure quality results

So, you have been tasked with the creation of a new online ad campaign that is geared toward patients within a given medical condition area. Where do you start? You don’t want your ads to become lost in the vast sea of pharma content. But how do you determine what will resonate with your target audience? The flip of a coin won’t work. Neither will rock/paper/scissors.

What will work is market research to gain insights from your target condition community – because one size does not fit all when it comes to patient insights. What resonates with the Breast Cancer patient community will not necessarily resonate with the Postpartum Depression patient community. Targeted patient community insight research is key.

Market research of the patient community?

“But I’m not a market research professional,” you say to yourself. “I have no idea how to execute market research that will provide quality results.” Well, you have come to the right place. Read on for some easy tips that will help you in your quest for quality results.

Identify your goals

Let’s use the example above. You first want to determine what kind of ad will resonate with the target audience, but try to get a bit more detailed.

  1. Who is your target audience? Be as specific as possible.
  2. What exactly do you want to learn from your target audience?
  3. Would it be best to use quantitative or qualitative methods to gain the information you want?

1. Target audience

A few items to consider when identifying your target audience are:

  • Do you want to target only in the US or worldwide?
  • Is this condition-specific to gender, ethnicity, age, or any other demographic?
  • Should the target audience include anyone other than patients? (Caregivers, family members, HCPs, etc.)
  • Do you want only people who have experience with a specific treatment?

The more detailed you can be, the better your results because you won’t have to sift through individuals who don’t fit into your exact target audience.

2. Consider the details

Once you have identified your target audience, you can move on to determining exactly what you want to get from your target audience.

  • Do you want to gather specific data about the appearance of the ad? (Imagery, colors used, placement of components, etc.)
  • Are you open to opinions about actual content to be included in the ad, or are there limitations to be considered?
  • Do you have concepts that can be shared with the participants, or will you be starting from scratch after the results of the research have been analyzed?

A good practice is to “think out loud” when trying to determine the target audience and goals for a study. It helps some people when to vocalize these things.

3. What research method will work best?

Next comes the type of research method that will be most appropriate for your needs. Let’s take a look at some points to consider at this stage.

It would be best to do an online survey if:

  • The majority of your questions require close-ended answers. (Consider the fact that many are now taking
  • surveys on their mobile device. Too much typing will be counterproductive as the drop off rate will increase)
  • You are seeking responses from a large audience, which leans toward a quantitative study
  • You are seeking data that is quantifiable, meaning that it can be measured
  • You are seeking a large sample size

A focus group would be most appropriate if:

  • You are seeking responses that will potentially be lengthy
  • Answers given could generate follow-up questions, with a discussion ensuing
  • Your team or client would like to watch or listen in as responses are given. Sometimes, the way in which a response is given can be as enlightening as the response itself
  • Your desired sample size is smaller, which would lend itself more toward a qualitative study

Check out the chart from Scribbr below comparing the two main types of research – quantitative and qualitative. An online survey is typically going to be a quantitative study vs. conducting a focus group, which would be qualitative.

Designing Patient Research to Ensure Quality Results 1

Here at WEGO Health, we actually have a third way to field a study. Mobile Insights by WEGO Health is a mobile platform through which respondents provide their answers either by keypad poll or voice response. Our Mobile Insights platform is a hybrid of the two above-listed methods that can provide both quantifiable data and audio responses that capture thoughts and opinions in greater detail.

Write the questions

Now that you’ve identified your target audience, your goals for the research, and the research method through which you will field the study, it’s time to actually draft the questions.
Regardless of the research method decided on, you want to make sure that your questions elicit answers that are of use to you. And that can be different, depending on the research method chosen. Below are a few tips on how to write questions that will get you quality results.

If you are doing a quantitative study – most likely an online survey:

    • Take into consideration the device types that people may use to take your online survey. Some will use a computer (desktop or laptop), others a tablet, while many may use a smartphone. You want to make sure that your survey is optimized for mobile and that you think about the thumbs of the respondents.
    • Ensure that you have considered all possible responses for your multiple-choice or checkbox questions. This will reduce the number of “other” responses to then categorize, thus providing you with more accurate data.
    • Include a variety of question types so that a respondent is less likely to run through the answers without thought. A mix of multiple-choice, checkbox, rating, and a couple of open-ended questions will serve you well.

Of course, the question types do need to be appropriate for the questions asked and it’s recommended to keep any open-ended questions to a minimum. As mentioned in the first point, consider those who are using a smartphone to respond to your survey.

As you are drafting the questions, think about logical progression. You want to make sure that your question topics are not jumping back and forth. And let questions build on the probable answers from previous questions.
Build skip logic into your survey, where appropriate. As an example, if question 1 asks if the respondent has taken a particular medication, you do not want them to have to then respond to question 2 that asks their opinion on that medication if their answer to question 1 was “no”. They should then “skip” over that follow-up question and on to the next appropriate question for them.

If you have decided to embark on a qualitative study – most likely a focus group:

    • Ask questions that will not elicit one-word answers. Ensure that they are questions that make people think before answering. This will provide you with more in-depth answers and thus more valuable insights.
    • Start with high-level questions that will get your participants’ creative juices flowing. Don’t go “all in” from the start because that will undoubtedly freak out some of your participants—especially if they are relatively new to focus group participation. An example to start with is “Tell me how you know about XXX condition.”
    • Consider the flow of the conversation. What follow-up/probing questions could you ask in response to an answer given? Dig deeper with your follow-up/probing questions. Note, however, that while you want to ask follow-up questions, be careful to keep the conversation moving. Getting stuck on one topic will derail the successful flow of conversation.

<liKeep in mind the topics of conversation. For instance, you don’t want to ask about patient experiences, followed by opinions on ad concepts, and then experiences with caregivers. Ensure the topic flow makes sense.

  • Make sure that all of the participants remain actively engaged. Is one of your participants especially quiet? Bring that person into the conversation by asking him or her one of your follow-up questions. This gives that participant the time to think about the topic while others are speaking before being asked to provide their thoughts in a follow-up.
  • Regardless of the study method, be cautious when it comes to condition/product-related questions. As you may know, you are required to report to the FDA any Adverse Events that are expressed to you. Shy away from questions that will encourage responses that could include Adverse Events.



Upon closing of the study, prioritize analysis while it is still fresh for you. As you digest the information you have gathered and analyzed, consider it as you take your next steps. Really think about what your respondents/participants have shared with you. The questions you asked and the answers provided should be able to guide you in the creation of the campaign example we began with.

The patient voice is crucial to the success of your marketing campaign. Patients can tell you first-hand how their community will respond to your ads. If you have a need to tap into the patient community, WEGO Health can help. Reach out to us and let’s partner to ensure your campaign is successful and valuable for both you and the community you serve.

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