How to conduct market research for healthcare

Find out how to conduct market research for healthcare so that you can provide better care and improved services for your patients.

Market research shouldn’t only be done by what you’d consider typical commercial business. As it’s largely about people and what they want and need, other organizations—from governments to the healthcare industry—would definitely benefit from it.

Your local family doctor or nearest hospital will most likely not give you a survey with your prescription on your way out, but there are certainly ways in which the healthcare industry can gather valuable information about its ‘target audience’. 

In this guide we’ll highlight why market research is so important for the healthcare sector, how you can use it to improve your health systems and how to conduct your research in a way that’ll give you actionable insights.

Understanding healthcare market research

Healthcare market research is done to learn how to improve health services for people, and how to get patients to pick your health care facility, service or product. In that sense, it’s less about selling, but more about providing the right information through the right channels, and having a really beneficial solution available to patients.

Why is healthcare marketing research so important? 

If you hear the words healthcare marketing research together, you might think that feels odd: healthcare isn’t typically something that needs to be marketed, it should be something people simply get when they need it. 

And that’s precisely why market research is so important for forward-thinking professionals in the healthcare industry. By finding out what people need and want from the healthcare industry, providers and brands will be able to give them services and products that are truly great. 

Below, we’ve listed some reasons why healthcare providers and patients benefit from market research.

Help people find the help they need

Even as patients, or especially as patients, people won’t simply ‘buy’ anything healthcare providers sell.

In other industries, it’s all about creating a demand or convincing people to choose your product or service. In healthcare, it should be about making sure that the people who need a certain service can easily find it. 

Think of it as inbound marketing, but with a shorter ‘sales funnel’. The healthcare industry is confusing enough as it is, and people want to see and know their options as quickly as possible. With healthcare marketing research, you can learn how to do that for them.

Patient satisfaction is crucial for improvements

For many patients, the barrier to go to see any healthcare professional, use a healthcare product or have some treatment can be very high. And this is totally understandable: they don’t know what to expect, and they’ve probably heard some horrific stories of others. 

Patient satisfaction should be taken very seriously by all healthcare companies. It’s not all about the treatment and whether that’s successful or not—even though that’s obviously the main objective. 

How easy was it for a patient to get help? How did they find the information they needed, and how clear was this? How were they treated?

By improving these ‘secondary’ factors, you won’t just improve the experience of patients, but also of the ones treating them. 

Improve business operations and services

What’s good for your patients and market, is also good for business. If you want to make informed decisions for your healthcare practice, don’t just perform internal investigations.

You can often give that knowledge a lot more context by talking to patients, suppliers and any other partners you work with. 

Improve healthcare—for everyone

Market research can also be used to simply start understanding your patients better. From specific research into women, minorities, teenagers, and senior citizens, for instance, will help you make your communications and the care you provide more inclusive, and therefore better. You can take away any possible barriers and start taking care of everyone equally well.

Examples of healthcare market research

There are countless research topics worth diving into for medical professionals. Which healthcare practices need improvement according to patients, what’s possible in the world of medical devices, and how can a medical organization improve from a marketing perspective?

We’ll give you some examples of types of market research and key markets you can look into.

Market research aimed at patients

What’s the most obvious part of the market for the healthcare industry? The patients of course! You can learn so much more from them than just satisfaction stats.

  • Test your branding and messaging on a specific market segmentation. How are senior citizens reacting to your brand, in comparison to young families, for instance?
  • When developing a new product or service, find out what patients think about it with a new product development survey. Test your ideas with the people who will be using it. 
  • Build strong personas to better cater to your patients’ needs. With qualitative interviews, focus groups and surveys, you can learn what every customer needs.
  • Improve patient experience: what people experience asides from their treatment has a significant impact on how they perceive your organization and if they’d recommend it to others.
  • ‘Buying’ journey research: how do people find you? What are important touchpoints and where could you improve the way you give people information?

How to make health market research data actionable?

If you want your research efforts to be worthwhile, you need to start every piece of research by defining what you want to do with it. Because this goes beyond nice-to-know or looks-great-in-a-powerpoint: you conduct market research to learn what you can do better, and how. 

We’ll dive into the steps to conduct healthcare market research below, but before you get started you need to have two things: 

  • A clear objective
  • Influential decision-makers involved

By having a market research goal that’s connected to a practical reaction, it’ll be easier to select high-quality respondents and get actionable insights. 

And by having someone on board who is influential enough to take the newfound insights to the boardroom and make actual changes, you’ll know that your research and investments will be put to great use.

How to do healthcare and medical market research in 8 steps

There’s no framework set in stone that dictates how you should exactly conduct healthcare market research, but there are some milestones that you shouldn’t miss, some boxes you should tick. 

We’ve put these in chronological order for you, although we do advise you to do your due diligence and see if you are still meeting previous standards when going through these steps. Here’s what you should do for successful market research in the healthcare sector.

Step 0: Have a goal

You know this one’s important because it’s step zero – it’s a no-brainer. 

We’ll repeat it because it’s such an important one. Make sure you don’t start your research based on a whim. Define your goal—what are you hoping to achieve with your market research? Include what you will be looking into, why, and think ahead on what might need changing based on the results you’ll find.  

Step 1: Bring decision-makers on board

Make sure everyone knows what the research is about, what the goal is, and have them prepare for making it all come true. There are a lot of stakeholders in any healthcare market research, so it’s important to have them all involved. Don’t just show up with the results at the end of the ride—make sure they tag along from day one.

Step 2: Select the audience

Now, this, of course, depends on the goal of your research. But we would like to remind you of the value you could bring on board by including extra related, target groups.

For instance, if you are investigating waiting times and patient satisfaction, it can help to not just survey patients—ask nurses who know what’s happening on the floor, so you can give more context to your data. 

Here are some examples of important audiences for health care market research.

  • Patients and other people using health services. These could also be healthy people, like patients’ families, or people using health services that aren’t related to disease.
  • Primary care practitioners, such as general practitioners, specialists, nurses, and pharmacists.
  • Secondary care practitioners like consultants, caregivers, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and more
  • Healthcare administrators, from board members to purchases and government officials.

Step 3: Take care of privacy

The way you handle data and take care of the privacy of your respondents is always important, but in this type of research, it’s all the more crucial. 

Make sure that any tools you use are compliant with the regulations that matter to you, and that everyone using them knows how to keep data and privacy in check. Also, communicate clearly to your respondents how you will be handling data.

Step 4: Choose the right research methods

If you conduct healthcare market research, you have several sources to choose from. Of course, primary sources will be more relevant than secondary ones (because you’ll end up with the data you originally needed, not second-hand data that was gathered for someone else’s use). But it doesn’t hurt to get your foundation right—especially in the early stages of your healthcare market research. 

If you talk directly to patients or providers, you’re doing primary market research. This can range from qualitative research like focus groups to more quantitative research like online surveys, to in-depth interviews. If you dive into existing reports and studies, you’re doing secondary market research. It’s always best to combine those, to give more context to the data you’re gathering. 

Step 5: Pick a platform

You’ll want to pick a platform and tool that has it all. That will make it easier to work with, and ensures that you have a grip on where all your data is being stored.

Using a platform like Attest gives you all that, and then some: we help you set up an airtight survey and make sure you can use the platform in the best way possible. As for privacy concerns, you can give the right people exclusive access so all data is safe—perfect for research, especially in healthcare settings. 

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Step 6: Review the results

Time to look at the results! It’s key that you interpret these the right way—which all starts with asking the right questions. Get all stakeholders on board when reviewing the data, so you don’t miss any important angles. 

Step 7: Start implementing, stat!

This is the stage in which the magic happens. Translate your qualitative and quantitative market research services to action points. Make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Step 8: Measure more than once

If you have your SMART goals in place and start implementing, it’s crucial that you also follow up. For instance, if you’re looking to improve patient satisfaction, make sure to measure again after a while to see if you’re on the right track.

Tips for an effective healthcare market research survey

Like with any other survey, a healthcare market survey shouldn’t be too difficult of a task for respondents, and there are some rules to keep in mind to make it a success. As healthcare is a specific category however, we’ve included some last top tips to make sure you make the most of it.

Use the right platform 

The platform you use for your market research is where it all comes together: privacy, survey results, patients, and researchers. It’s where you’ll read the results from, so it needs to be crystal clear. Take your time to choose one that’s right for you.

Keep your questions simple

Your respondents should not be the ones doing the hard work. Make sure your survey is easy to understand and easy to fill in. The right platform—something like Attest—will also help you with this.

Keep it short

If you’ve established a clear objective and topic for your research, and picked an audience with care, you can skip a lot of questions that are just fluff. If you find yourself asking for a lot of details about a demographic, ask yourself if you’ve defined your audience well enough.

Recruiting respondents

Are you struggling to find respondents for your survey? Make sure you are asking in the right way, and communicate clearly why you are doing this. People love being part of the solution, they just want to know upfront why they are sharing their experiences. 

Be clear about privacy

We can’t stress it enough: healthcare market research requires strict adherence to data protection standards. Check and then double check if the systems you’re looking to use live up to your standards. Also make sure that you can communicate clearly to respondents how their data is being used and stored.

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Alexandra Aquino

Customer Research Principal 

Alexandra joined Attest in 2018, with a strong background in market research. In the Customer Research Team, Alexandra takes a leading role in supporting brands to uncover consumer insights and explore new opportunities for growth.

See all articles by Alexandra