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People most often think of marketing research as those check-the-box surveys that crop up on the Internet. But qualitative research, based on a conversation with the respondent rather than a survey aimed at the respondent, can play a major role in various stages of a medical device’s marketing lifecycle.
“When using qualitative research, you want to make the researcher as much a part of your team as possible. The researcher will be having an unbiased conversation with your target audience, that’s part of the research protocol. But, you want the researcher to be privy to your goals and as much technical information as you can share, so that the researcher can direct the conversation to areas that you find important. Having had client side experience and being a part of various launch teams has been very valuable to me as a researcher. I’ve lived through many of the issues that are faced during a product launch.
During the development stage, qualitative research can determine the largest unmet needs in a particular area. That input can be used to develop a new device or fine tune the development of a device in process. With various websharing programs, these interviews can be conducted on the phone. Using phone interviews, thought leaders or healthcare professionals at the type of institutions that the marketer wishes to target are readily accessible.
Once the device has been developed, there are a variety of studies that enhance the launch process. Device usability, an item that the FDA now includes in its evaluation of a new device, can be conducted using face-to-face interviews at facilities in most major cities in the US and Europe. Marketers can see how respondents would use their devices in simulations. This approach highlights potential training needs and refinement in packaging and presentation during use. If your audience is a small specialty with wide geographic dispersion, conventions are often a cost-effective route to finding enough respondents in one place to obtain reactions.
The need for training, the amount of training required, and the best vehicles for training are also topics for qualitative research. Talking to actual potential users and testing proposed training mechanisms can bring to light issues that developers, because they have been so intimately involved in the product, never thought of. Better to iron out the kinks ahead of launch then to have to deal with them after.
Patient information is another area where qualitative research can provide the developer with insights as to how patients would interpret your instructions and how best to construct those instructions to meet FDA guidelines.
Of course, once your device is launched, follow-up research with users, discontinuers, and those aware of but who haven’t tried your product will allow you to keep your marketing plans on track. In a nutshell, that’s the goal of qualitative research—to provide you with nuanced, actionable information to keep you and your team on track for a successful product lifecycle.”
About the Author: Margie Flagg will be sharing her insights at the 10x Medical Device Conference next week. She is the owner of Market Research, PRN. She has more than 25 years’ experience in medical devices and pharmaceutical marketing research. She is an experienced qualitative and quantitative market researcher, with broad experience in the medical device field. With both client side and vendor side experience, Margie can provide you with insightful answers to your questions and flexible research options.
This was a wonderful article and very informative. Thank you!
Jose M. Montero
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