The importance of market research for the healthcare sector

24th Aug 2018
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As an industry, market research may not have even existed today if it weren’t for a schoolteacher, a company acquisition, and a lot of farm equipment. Charles Coolidge Parlin was a Wisconsin schoolteacher who had no marketing experience when he was hired by the Curtis Publishing Company in 1911. Parlin, more commonly known as the father of market research, was a pioneer who then proceeded to create the field of market research out of thin air. He engaged in data-gathering, interviewing subjects, and breaking down the findings into sober numbers to give insights to the company executives.

His ground-breaking work for the company helped replace intuition by logic in the marketing world and imbibed new life into the field.

Market research – which includes all forms of the market, opinion, and social research and data analytics – is all about analyzing and interpreting data to obtain information and knowledge that can be used to predict future events, actions, or consumer behaviour. Market research helps companies understand and interpret an increasingly complex world and develop a successful business plan.

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Market research in the healthcare sector

When it comes to most consumer goods or services, the consumer can decide if it is a luxury or a necessity and if so, whether or not they need to spend on it. However, when it comes to healthcare, the purchase of these services or products is never optional. A patient who needs healthcare will have to buy it. But this also does not mean that they will buy anything that the healthcare service providers sell. It has become crucial to understand the dynamics and the unique challenges facing the healthcare industry in India, which will reportedly increase threefold to US$ 133.44 billion by 2022.

In fact, according to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, the Indian healthcare sector has the potential to show the same exponential growth that the software industry has shown in the past decade.

The marketplace has become aggressive and complex because of the escalating cost, intense competition, a larger number of choices, and growing dissatisfaction among patients, which means that the service providers need to operate strategically. The success of a healthcare organization now relies largely on competitive intelligence, market knowledge, and strategic planning. Today, healthcare market research is an integral part of the strategy to succeed.

At its most fundamental level, the healthcare industry is all about serving people and providing them with the best level of care. The patients are at the heart of these services, and the best way to understand their needs and concerns better is by taking their opinion into consideration through market research. Market intelligence is a crucial aspect of the healthcare system since it calls for providers to capitalize on evidence-based decision making, rather than reacting to perceived needs. This “research to results approach” will result in health care providers thriving rather than merely be surviving.

When an organization has the right insights, it will also make the brand message far more credible and valuable to the consumer base. Conducting an in-depth market study offers organizations numerous advantages which include:

  • Helping players in the sector get to the core of the factors that drive the decision-making process for healthcare choices
  • Organizations can analyze and understand a patient’s experience by engaging with them while they receive treatment
  • The strategic advantages and disadvantages that a provider has when compared to their competition
  • Providing a better opportunity to the experts who are hands-on with the public to voice their opinions
  • Providing the different players in the field insights into the market trends to help create a realistic budget and forecast
  • Learning what the primary caregivers of a patient look for during the caregiving process
  • The cultural, structural, and environmental influences on health and health care in the target market
  • Whether or not there is a market for a product or service that a provider wants to launch
  • Gaining a better understanding of the health policy and other regulations in different countries
  • The business impact that key industry issues can have on the individual companies

For instance, a research group explored whether or not market forces operate in healthcare, and the results showed that they have a consistent impact on the sector. Higher-performing hospitals control a greater market share and experience higher growth over time than their lower-performing counterparts. This correlation between performance and market share substantiates the idea that patients are not simply passive participants when receiving medical care. The study also found that even during emergency situations, patients are willing to travel to higher-performing hospitals to receive better care.

For heart attacks, patients studied were willing to travel 1.8 miles more to receive treatment at a hospital with a risk-adjusted survival rate that was 1 percent higher. Reallocation of patients to higher-performing hospitals also contributes to patient-survival gains. In-hospital technology and treatment improvements alone cannot explain this improvement in survival rates.

Quality, result, and significance are the watchwords for health care in the 21st century. The public has their own set of needs, expectations, and perceptions which influence their decisions, particularly in a field as important as healthcare. Studies have clearly shown that customers, particularly from the urban areas, choose products and services from a company that has accurate market research results since they are privy to current and accurate information. Today, we are all part of a customer-driven market, and brands need information more than ever to deal with the intricate and dynamic world of choice.

It is imperative to bring the kind of information that would lead to a comprehensive understanding of the business scenario or industry on a larger scale. For instance, a healthcare research mandates to seek the opinion of healthcare professionals, but the research organization should be adept in taking the right sample. More important than the sample is the ability to know if the chosen healthcare professional will have substance in their opinion for the research.

The research process has taken a paradigm shift and it is no more the same which it was in the past. The evolution of technology in research has gathered momentum and rightly so. The tech-integration in the process has minimized a lot of redundant methods, thereby imparting speed and accuracy. Any research organization that remains alien to such advancements may find it difficult to scale and help businesses.

Jasal Shah is CEO, Managing Director, and Spokesperson of Markelytics and Velocity MR.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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