Primary Market Research Can Continue - April 8, 2020 Update

Primary Market Research Can Continue - April 8, 2020 Update

Healthcare Providers and Patients Want to Participate in Market Research

Let the data guide you when conducting research during the time of COVID-19

This information is an update to the statement released by Intellus Worldwide on March 25, 2020.

As market researchers and insights professionals, we are well-practiced in the art of forming a hypothesis and then relying on the data to shift and shape our approach. While many of us first assumed that we should slow—or even halt—our research studies during the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are instead finding that we can offer providers a welcome sense of normalcy amid the upheaval. We can also continue helping providers and patients share their perspectives on the current pandemic, as well as the many other pressing diseases and other health concerns that still need to be addressed.   

In fact, research reported by M3 Global Research on March 19, 2020 shows that healthcare professional response rates are up 12% overall and up by 15% for quantitative studies. This data, along with updated data detailed below, shows clear evidence that providers continue to want to participate in market research during this time.

Intellus Worldwide recommends that healthcare market researchers continue their important work. At the same time, we urge researchers to make necessary adjustments to protect respondents’ physical safety, personal information, and time.  It is also recommended that the community continue to diligently monitor the data to adapt to the rapidly changing healthcare environment.  Intellus Worldwide will continue to collaborate with our community to provide ongoing updates and guidance.

Interest in market research remains strong among healthcare providers and patients

Reports from our market research partners show that healthcare providers remain interested in responding to research surveys during the pandemic.

●     InCrowd, Inc. (InCrowd) reports that in a March 19, 2020 microsurvey of 263 frontline treating physicians (emergency room and critical care specialists, primary care physicians, and pediatricians), 97% answered “yes” to the question, “Do you wish to continue to share your opinions via microsurveys during this time when healthcare professionals are in higher than normal demand due to COVID-19?”

○     Those who wish to continue sharing feedback via microsurveys during the COVID-19 crisis, cited that they want to help (52%) and believe the information they have to be impactful during this time (25%).

○     Physicians report that providing feedback remains critically important to them, even more so now, if it could be done in a nonintrusive way (online, short, mobile and on the go, avoiding excessive open ends).

○     Selected remarks include:

■     “As a pediatrician, our business is down 30-50% so I have time to do surveys.” —PCP, LA

■     “I want my voice heard.” —ER Specialist, TX

■     “It's critical to ensure that medical professionals on the front line are heard as a priority.” —ER Specialist, FL

■     “Happy to share my opinions and give the money to my staff, worried we’ll be laying off soon.” PCP, MI

■     “I can always choose not to participate if I am too busy.” —ER Specialist, FL

●     On March 25, 2020, in partnership with Rare Patient Voice, InCrowd conducted similar research with 152 chronic and immunocompromised patients. Ninety-five percent wish to continue sharing via surveys during the COVID-19 crisis. This survey included patients with mild-to-severe conditions such as diabetes, asthma, COPD, migraine, high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.

○     Many who wish to continue, note that they hope their experiences will contribute to helping others, and have their voices heard, and found online surveys an easy way to accomplish this.

■     “As a type 1 diabetic, I am really worried about being able to afford my supplies during this time. I am HAPPY to share my opinion if that will help people with the power to change things [and] make informed decisions.” —Diabetes Patient, Age 34

■     “I think it’s important to hear from the people who are at highest risk of death if they contract the virus.” —Diabetes Patient, Age 27

●     InCrowd research fielded April 4, 2020 to non-frontline specialists reflects similar findings, with 99.5% of the 202 physicians surveyed sharing that they would like to continue doing microsurveys during the pandemic.

○     Respondents shared that they have the time and their perspective is important.

■     “I actually have more time given some less clinical demands relative to other more impacted specialists.” —Rheumatologist, CA

■     “I believe these help to manage the crisis and give valuable information going forward.” —Gastroenterology, NY

■     “Research is important. We need to continue normal life activities as much as possible.” —Oncologist, KT

●     M3 Global Research conducted an incentive-free survey between March 18 and April 3, 2020 of 31,384 professionals working across a broad range of specialties in the U.S., Europe and Asia.  The survey showed that:

○     97% of healthcare professionals are willing to take part in market research. This includes more than 3,200 respondents working in frontline specialties, such as anesthesiology, emergency care, critical care, pulmonology, and infectious disease, and 2,900 nurses.

○     96% of healthcare professionals across all markets are eager to participate in online market research.

○     Providers note that research offers them:

■     A distraction from their current pressures

■     Added income during an uncertain time when many providers not on the front lines of the COVID-19 response are having to cancel appointments, close practices, or self-isolate

■     Continued learning opportunities

■     The opportunity to be part of research that will significantly impact beneficial new therapies

○     70% of healthcare professionals across all markets remain open to receiving frequent emails and express a desire to manage their own influx of communications. 

The Intellus Worldwide webinar of this data and the M3 Global Research dashboard can be accessed here.

●     At SurveyHealthcareGlobus (SHG) online, quantitative data collection is continuing with no noticeable impact on response rates, regardless of specialty or country. On the Qualitative side, TDI and Virtual Qual research remains strong, but In-Person methodologies have been placed on hold for the safety of our employees and the respondents.

Response Rates:

○     We are not seeing any significant changes in response rates at this time. 

○     Every day, we ask our project managers (PMs) to report any difficulty in completing their projects.  As is always the case, there are some projects which require special attention.  However, we have seen no issues due to the impact of the virus.  In fact, many PMs have commented that their projects are going well.  Today one PM commented that she was astonished that a project with Pulmonologists and ID’s was fielding quicker than normal.

Ongoing Expectations:

○     Based on our current experience, we do not see any trends suggesting an impact to any research modalities except for those which are either in-person, require Pharma sales reps to report on physician visits, or methodologies where direct contact information is not readily available (such as mailed surveys). 

○     However, we realize the repercussions of the virus will grow significantly worse between now and July. We will continue to monitor all of our projects on a daily basis and, if we see a response rate issue developing, we will let clients know. 


○     We do not recommend avoiding target groups or topics at this time. As noted above, we have not seen an impact even with studies requiring Pulmonologists or Infectious Disease physicians.  We highlight these two specialties in particular because we assume they are significantly involved in treatment of the virus.


○     Releasing a benchmarking study to better quantify the impact the virus has had on response rates is actually a very nuanced question in our field.  Each engagement is different in nature, with unique variables included: free-found or from a target list, honorarium, LOI, incidence.

○     Generally, an average response rate is in the 3 to 5% range; however, we can see response rates of 10%+ at times and in certain research engagements. We feel the best means for monitoring this situation is tracking our in-field engagements to completion, as we always have and reviewing the information we obtain from our Project Managers on our daily company-wide project calls to assess if a significant shift in our ability to collect data from the healthcare community occurs -- so far it has not been the case.

●     Medefield conducted an online survey of 1,582 physicians across a range of global regions and medical specialties on the impact of COVID-19 on market research, from March 19 to 25, 2020.  

The survey showed that:

●     91% of physicians agree that online market research is still appropriate amidst the pandemic. And 93% support pharma sponsoring market research during this time. Physicians remarked that:

○     “As long as the activities are online, I don’t see any problem. I have time.”

○     “Additional income is helpful when patient care and billing is limited.”

○     “Because it allows me to do something productive and useful.”

●     56% of physicians report seeing an average of 46% fewer patients.

●     A large majority of physicians across global regions are willing to participate:

○     94% in Asia (China and Japan)

○     91% in Europe (EU5 + NL/Belgium)

○     88% in North America (USA + Canada)

○     89% in Latin America

●     A large majority of physicians across many specialties are willing to participate:

○     97% in rheumatology

○     94% in dermatology and gastroenterology

○     93% in hematology/oncology, nephrology, and pulmonology/respirology

○     90% in infectious disease

○     87% in emergency medicine

Researchers can implement key best practices to conduct research responsibly during this time to ensure HCPs can provide a critical voice in these unprecedented times

We echo the statements from EphMRA, ESOMAR, M3 Global Research, InCrowd, SHG, Medefield and other industry organizations that researchers should follow best practices specific to the current situation:

●     Approach healthcare providers and patients with empathy: From healthcare providers on the front lines, to those who’ve recently had to close their practices, to patients themselves, everyone is impacted by the current crisis. We recommend adapting survey invites, messaging, and tactics to reflect a greater sensitivity toward potential respondents’ situations and available time. In addition, be sure not to penalize providers who do not respond during this time when many may simply be too busy treating patients.

●     Make surveys simple, quick, easy, and focused on the greater good: A recent survey by InCrowd shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic, providers want short, online surveys (97%) that are fast, simple, and convenient, while 79% are willing to do short, telephone/online interviews, and results that are leveraged to improve public and government awareness.

●     Find new approaches to avoid face-to-face qualitative research: We recommend that researchers follow current public health guidelines on social distancing and explore remote qualitative options. This crisis can push us to find new ways of working and collaborating.

●     Offer flexible scheduling and efficiency for telephone interviews: M3 Global Research found that although 46% of healthcare providers across all markets are still willing to participate in telephone interviews, those in the hardest-hit areas are less willing. This is, in part, due to the fact that the constant changes during a crisis like COVID-19 make reliable advanced scheduling difficult. Therefore, researchers wishing to conduct telephone interviews will need to offer a degree of flexibility. M3 also notes that, while many providers are still willing to participate in lengthy (60 minute) telephone interviews, researchers should be particularly sensitive to the need to keep interviews streamlined, focused, and time efficient.

●     Ensure data protection: As companies move to more virtual, work-at-home arrangements and technologies, work closely with your legal, regulatory, and IT departments to ensure alignment with all proper data security measures.

●     Respond quickly to emerging issues: The situation for healthcare professionals is evolving rapidly across countries, regions, and specialties. For example, M3 Global Research data shows that 65% of U.S. providers vs. 44% of Italian providers are willing to participate in telephone interviews. This may reflect the current level of COVID-19 intensity in each country, respectively, and requires continued monitoring. We recommend researchers work closely with clients, vendors, and government stakeholders to monitor and respond to emerging issues.

Intellus Worldwide will continue working with our members to bring updates to the insights community. We are available to answer questions and address concerns from our members. For questions or more information, please contact Heidi Boyle.


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