A Keep Fit Guide – How the ever-changing market research arena is helping keep the healthcare industry in shape

Ahead of the European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association (EphMRA)‘s flagship Business Intelligence/Analysis Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, held June 21st – 23rd 2016, EphMRA President Thomas Hein, outlines the latest trends changing the day-to-day lives of healthcare researchers.

By Thomas Hein 
Market research is an essential activity for all healthcare companies.

It provides the unbiased, independent voice of the customer to the healthcare companies and, therefore, has to follow several regulations especially with regard to data privacy.

Used to guide decisions in several areas of the business from identification of unmet customer needs, development of product portfolio, communication strategies, awareness and utilisation of products, just to mention a few, its imperative all companies keep up to speed with what is an ever-changing market research landscape.

These exciting and fast-paced changes also have an impact on researcher activities as professionals, across both companies and agencies, must always be aware of the newest trends, anticipate the needs of their customers and address them with the best methodologies.

The vision of EphMRA is creating excellence in professional standards and practices to enable healthcare market researchers to become highly valued business partners.

The role of the market researcher in this sector has evolved over the last 10 years from a data analyst providing information towards a customer and markets insights expert providing decision support.

There are several key trends currently impacting the healthcare industry which market researchers have to be aware of and address them appropriately.

A holistic patient focused approach

For pharmaceutical companies, one of these trends is patient centricity which is becoming a core strategy as companies are aware that the patient is more and more involved in the decision making process about healthcare services and the prescription of drugs.

A patient focused market research approach with a holistic view of the patient, (rather than looking at one disease state and its treatment) requires different methods compared to conducting research with healthcare professionals.

Very often market researchers do not have an understanding of the patient and their role as they do not have direct contact with patients. Market researchers have to provide the patient perspective to the company and recommend patient oriented strategies to the companies.

New technology

In traditional ethnographic research, a patient is followed daily for hours during their day-to-day life and observed on key topics. Questions are asked within the observed situation to gain a deeper understanding about attitudes and motivation.

Now, new technologies will make this method -which is conducted more and more in recent years,-less cost intensive and even more observational eliminating nearly completely the interviewer influence.
One of the stand-out new technologies now available is Google Glass which allows researchers to see the world through the patient’s eyes.

Usage of such a technology has to be explored, and the first agencies are now embracing it. Additional technology is already available via smart phones. Patients can make audio and video recordings either ‘in the moment ‘or after it, like after a physician visit.

This leads to another important trend for the future, mobile health – which is the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices.
Mobile health applications include the use of mobile devices in collecting community and clinical health data, delivery of healthcare information to practitioners, researchers, and patients, real-time monitoring of patient vital signs, collection of personal health related data by consumers including patients and direct provision of care.

This leads to a huge amount of data which has not previously been available. If patients start to collect data on their lifestyle, disease state, physicians visits, dietary and reasons for decisions it will allow the holistic view on a patient with all healthcare related aspects which has not been available so far.

Mobile health will also change the way healthcare companies are communicating with their customers, especially healthcare professionals and patients.

The various digital channels currently available have different advantages and disadvantages compared to the traditional model of sales representatives visiting healthcare professionals. The communication tools will get more interactive and will allow healthcare professionals to receive the information they need at the point in time they need it.

Data privacy and security

With all the data available and more patient level data generated by primary market research the topic of data privacy and security becomes increasingly important.

For Europe, the fundamental right to the protection of personal data is already explicitly recognised in Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. There are special regulations around the processing of health data.

Similar regulations exist for other geographies, and this has implications for primary market research as well as for the analysis of patient level healthcare data.

EphMRA is in continuous contact with the respective authorities to explain the nature of market research and for which objectives data is used, and informs its members about changes in regulations in Europe as well as other major geographies to ensure the companies and agencies are compliant.

Several of the topics mentioned above and the implications for market research will be addressed at the EphMRA Business Intelligence/Analysis Conference in Frankfurt, Germany from June 21st – 23rd 2016.

Registration is open now for the industry leading event. For full details visit www.ephmraconference.org


Thomas Hein is President of EphMRA and Global Director Customer Insights and Strategy Immunodiagnostics, Thermo Fisher Scientific

EphMRA (European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association) strives to create excellence in professional standards and practices to enable healthcare market researchers to become highly valued business partners.