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Why online communities are great for hard-to-reach patients

Posted by Emma Coombes on 13/08/18 12:31

It can often be difficult to source quality respondents for patient market research. Not only do you need to plan your research to fit in with your patients’ lives, but there’s often specific criteria to meet as well. From those living with low-incidence rate diseases that are often spread out across the country to projects targeting those who take a particular type of medication, or even newly-diagnosed patients, healthcare market research is notorious for its niche audiences. However, thanks to the rise of digital methods such as online communities, barriers are being broken down - making the lives of researchers that little bit easier. Read on to find out why online communities are the perfect methodology for engaging with hard-to-reach respondents in patient market research… 

patient market research

There’s no geographical restriction

One of the great things about using MROCs for conducting research with niche audiences is that you can access participants anytime, anywhere. This is a huge benefit when it comes to carrying out patient market research with those suffering from rare diseases, as the patients you need to reach will often be spread out across the country with some even being too unwell to travel. However, because market research online communities allow you to study patients in a group setting but from the comfort of their own home, you can still access the in-depth insights you need from your research whilst avoiding the many feasibility issues that come hand in hand with niche audiences and location-based methodologies. 
 

Engage with and empower patients

Online communities also allow you to easily engage with your participants and empower patients to discover more about the latest developments in their therapy area. It’s also a great way for them to influence the process and help themselves and their community to get better - which is the greatest incentive of all for them to take part! Not only does this motivate your participants to get involved, but it also results in deeper insights as patients treat community forums as a kind of support group and build a rapport with each other by talking about shared experiences, making them feel empowered and listened too. This is especially important for those suffering from very rare conditions who might not have any recognised support groups available and relish the opportunity to share their journey with other people going through the same thing as them. 

Access deeper insights than ever before

When taking part in market research online communities, participants are also likely to reveal interesting insights in their conversations with each other that wouldn’t otherwise come out in a traditional focus group setting - making MROCs an extremely useful method that allows researchers to access deeper insights than ever before. Those suffering from rare diseases might feel too shy or embarrassed to talk about their condition in a face to face setting, or more dominant characters tend to take over so not everyone gets the chance to have their say. However the relative anonymity and comfort of talking to others suffering from the same illness in an online setting might just encourage them to come out of their shell and open up - resulting in free-flowing discussion and allowing unique and unbeatable insights to come to the surface. 

And there’s less risk of dropouts too!

Finally, because patients don’t have to travel to take part in research and can instead complete tasks online at a time that suits them, insight communities tend to be a much more appealing methodology. And when you add in the fact that these communities act as a kind of support group for patients and allow them to build a rapport with one another, it’s easy to see why participants are less likely to dropout than with other methodologies. This is especially important for hard-to-reach respondents and rare therapy areas where it can be pretty difficult to find replacement participants at short notice - and due to the strict criteria, even if you do find a replacement that ticks all the boxes, it will most likely be too short notice for them to attend.

In conclusion, MROCS are a fantastic way to target heard-to-reach respondents in patient market research. From low-incidence rate diseases to specific criteria, the nature of online communities makes it easier for researchers to reach out to niche audiences than ever before, and also makes it easier for them to take part too - whilst at the same time encouraging them to open up and share deeper insights. If you’re conducting a healthcare market research project and would like to find out more about how MROCs could help you target niche audiences, why not download our guide.

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Topics: Patient Market Research

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