Dr Disillusioned: why health professionals have been abandoning market research, and what to do about it

The BHBIA, the professional body for those in healthcare business intelligence, has recently published a big report into declining participation rates amongst healthcare professionals (HCPs) in the UK.

As co-Chair of the task force that authored it, I’m keen to get our key recommendations in front of as many market research buyers and suppliers as possible. For me, there is no doubt that MR projects have become slower and costlier in recent years, and my gut feeling is that – much more seriously – their outcomes are becoming less and less credible. Based on the BHBIA-sponsored primary research amongst HCPs that underpins the report’s content, as well as the consistent testimony of my industry peers, I’m certain that a lot of the blame for that can be laid squarely at our own door. Put simply, we have failed to properly look after the people we most rely on, our participants.

The report, which can be downloaded here, makes five headline recommendations:

  1. Improve screening: This is by far and away the greatest frustration for HCPs – we need to target better, tighten up our control of what is and isn’t asked in qualifying, and be more flexible with quotas.
  2. Be open and honest about timings: For example, there is very little that winds-up a participant more than research that takes 30 minutes, when they’ve been promised it should take 20!
  3. Improve research design: Amateurish questions and lazy repetition are sadly all too common. It takes knowledge, time, collaboration, and piloting to make a good questionnaire or guide.
  4. Pay promptly: Being paid late or, in some cases, not at all, is a significant issue. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.
  5. Make participation more convenient: Our business day is pretty busy, but is it as busy as a doctor’s? They say that participating later in the evening would work for them – will we oblige?

And guess what? Remuneration levels are NOT seen as a big deal – essentially what we pay at present is absolutely fine for most who take part. What really grinds their gears is when they feel they’ve been short-changed, either by research that takes longer than advertised or payments that aren’t settled until months later.

The report is intended to be a practical document, and one that makes good business sense too. We make almost 40 sub-recommendations, offering suggestions as to their implementation. It is healthcare specific, but I think anyone in market research / business intelligence will find it valuable and so I encourage you to take a look, and share onward as you see fit!


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