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A beginner’s guide to choosing methodologies in healthcare qual MR

Selecting a methodology for your healthcare market research can often seem like an overwhelming experience. This can be due to the vast amount of methodologies available and the benefits that each present. Although these benefits do play a part in selecting your market research methodology you must also consider your audience, goals and budget to select the right methodology for you.

We’ve created a helpful synopsis of the most used qualitative market research methodologies to help you on your healthcare research journey;.

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Focus groups

From focus groups to individual in-home interviews, there are numerous ways healthcare researchers can gather the qualitative insight that they need. The number of people in a focus group can vary but we find between 6-10 people is a good place to start. With the help of a skilful moderator, the focus group discussion can give you a wealth of qualitative insight into participants opinions or beliefs – about a particular drug product, treatment or therapy area.

If you are considering utilising focus groups within your next healthcare market research study then you should consider where you will be hosting the research. The type of venue where the research is hosted can play an important part of how comfortable and forthcoming the participants will be in the discussion. When selecting your venue, ensure that it is distraction-free and in a private, easy to navigate to location. Making it as easy as possible for participants to attend will have some contribution to reducing the number of respondents that do not show up for the research.

From our experience, we have found that the following types of venues work well for focus groups:

  • Viewing facilities
  • Conference rooms in centrally located hotels
  • Your office if you have space

Focus Groups

Market Research Online Communities

Hosted on a private, bespoke platform, market research online communities offer an outstanding method of collating qualitative research from within a community environment.

With a market research online community, you have the added benefit of participants taking part in a variety of stimulating activities, such blogging, video or audio diaries, idea generation, mini surveys and forum discussions. We have found that interactive community tasks such as forum discussions work particularly well to increase participant engagement and to facilitate in-depth discussion. You can read more about online communities and task ideas that work well for this qualitative research methodology in our blogs here.


In a nutshell, the methodology of ethnography involves researchers observing participants in their own environment (usually their home) to experience first-hand their thoughts and behaviours. It can deliver real insights for researchers by letting them get right to the heart of how patients think, behave and feel in an environment in which they’re comfortable. Creating this type environment is important as it could help them to open up once they feel relaxed. This is particularly important in medical market research as research can include participants discussing sensitive subjects or conditions. These types of discussions are fully immersive and time-consuming for participants and they will be incentivised accordingly so bear this in mind when considering ethnographic research.

For more information about ethnography, take a look at our beginner’s guide to ethnography in patient market research.

Online Focus Groups

Online focus groups are conducted via private, video conferencing software. This enables the use of webcams, screen sharing, annotation of documents and live polling within the research. Online focus groups can be utilised for one-to-one participant interaction or for a mini-group – the size depending on the software capabilities, but we would normally recommend no more than 5. If online focus groups are conducted correctly, they can offer you all the benefits of a standard focus group but without the cost or logistical implications of trying to bring participants altogether in the same location. Find out more about this research methodology in our beginner’s guide to online medical focus groups.

Online Medical Focus Groups

Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews are a good option for when you have a lower budget as they can be carried out either as an in-depth interview between yourself and the respondent. Utilising a discussion guide will enable participants to elaborate on their answers, providing deeper insights for the research. Using a somewhat structured discussion guide will also enable participants to not stray too far from the topic at hand, keeping the discussion structured and relevant to the research.

The primary benefit of telephone interviews is that you don’t need to consider the logistical concerns like you would with a face to face interview which can raise the budget for research projects.

In-home interviews

Once a staple of traditional research projects, in-home interviews allow you to carry out in-depth interviews with people in their own environments – be it in patient’s home or at a GP Surgery. The depth that these interviews can provide is extremely valuable in qualitative market research, especially when interviewing patients. This is because from viewing a patient’s home you can see areas such as how their condition can impact their daily life and where or how they store their medication. As the research is also conducted in the participant’s homes, respondents are more likely to feel comfortable in their settings and open up to the moderator more.

Although the depth and insight that in-home interviews can provide, popularity for this research methodology has waned recently, due to participants being less inclined to give up the time necessary – or let people into their homes.

Similar to in-home interviews, you can also conduct interviews in with healthcare professionals in hospitals or practices. You could even interview healthcare professionals before or after a patient consultation, a benefit of this is that the information is fresh in their minds. Hopefully meaning that they will be able to deliver reliable and detailed insights. Although this is a great benefit to in-field interviews this type of research methodology can be intrusive into healthcare professionals work life as they are extremely busy and may not have time to participate in a market research interview.

You must also bear in mind your budget and the feasibility of your sample size when selecting your healthcare qualitative market research methodology. Take a look at our guide to choosing the right sample size for your research project below.