Posts

How Face Masks Affect Communication in a Healthcare Setting

How Face Masks Affect Communication in a Healthcare Setting

The Eyes Have It – How Face Masks Affect Communication in a Healthcare Setting

“The first time I wore a mask at work I was surprised by how isolated it made me feel. There was a whole new language to learn in order to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues.”

The use of face coverings in the UK is now required in all indoor public spaces, and in domestic environments where social distancing is required, but not possible. Since the beginning of June, face coverings have also been mandated in healthcare settings. All healthcare professionals, patients, auxiliary workers and visitors are now need to wear a mask, or face covering unless exempted.


Key Features of Effective Communication in a Healthcare Setting

No doubt the next few years will produce countless studies into how face masks affect communication in a healthcare setting. For the present though, the evidence remains anecdotal and sketchy as we’re all still learning to adapt our ‘pre-mask’ communication strategies.

Healthcare professionals depend, more than most, on effective oral communication because without it a patient’s recovery can be compromised. Accurate diagnosis, and clear medical instructions are vital to successful care, and are often determined by verbal interactions.  There are 5 key components required to achieve clear oral communication:

  1. Attention. Healthcare interactions often occur in a busy environment. Gaining the attention of your patient prior to speaking is key to effective communication.
  2. Vocal Projection. Hospital, or care home wards can have a good deal of background noise going on. A projected, or focused voice, helps the patent to hear clearly.
  3. Eye Contact. Using regular eye contact signals that the patient has your full attention and that their participation in the conversation is important.
  4. Mouth Movements. Most communication involves the observation of mouth movements, whether or not the patient suffers from hearing loss.
  5. Tempo. The speed at which information is relayed will determine the amount of information that is retained – especially if it is new information, or includes unfamiliar words.

“Everyone has more difficulty hearing you when you wear a mask, and that makes communication more tiring. It really is exhausting making the adjustments.”

Adjusting to a New Communications Reality

The LDA Research team has been talking to nurses, professional carers and an occupational therapist to find out how they are coping with adapting their communication strategies to the new normal. Most of them talk about how tiring the process of communication becomes, when you take away the old shortcuts. All of them have experienced a range of colleague responses to the problems encountered:

“Lots of colleagues immediately started to adapt the way they were communicating. Others haven’t shifted at all, which makes it difficult for everyone – including patients who tend to get embarrassed about having to keep asking for stuff to be repeated. So they just give up.”

6 Tips for Effective Communication

Everyone we spoke to was eager to share their new discoveries, and we were quickly able to put together a list of tips based on professional experience over the past 6 months:

  • Keep It Concise Listening is tiring for patients because they’re working harder than usual. Put plenty of full stops into what you’re saying. And pause between separate pieces of information.
  • Slow Down. If you can’t see the mouth of the person who’s speaking it’s harder to process what they’re saying. Speak slowly and clearly to take this into account.
  • Masks Can Be Scary. Children, or patients with autism, can feel frightened when surrounded with people in masks. Drawing a smile on can help, and silly moustaches lighten the mood.
  • Projection, Not Shouting. Shouting ‘feels’ aggressive if you’re on the receiving end. A projected voice is better. You simply focus on the recipient and direct your voice specifically to them.
  • Attention. Take care that you’ve got your patient’s attention before you start speaking. And use intermittent, regular eye contact to let them know that you’re listening carefully.
  • Gestures. Use anything that helps to clarify the communication; gestures where appropriate, pointing, or writing down unfamiliar words.

Specialist Communication

For those with hearing loss, dementia or autism, communication via a mask can be extremely difficult and disorientating. The loss of communicative anchors may lead to an increase in feelings of anxiety or alienation. At the beginning of September the UK government announced the delivery of 250,000 transparent face masks in order to facilitate effective communication. Alternative specialist techniques we heard discussed include the use of written communications, or an alphabet chart.


About LDA Research

LDA Research was set up in 2011 by Lucy Doorbar. The close-knit, core team now works with a global network of trusted associates. LDA carries out qualitative research for medical and pharmaceutical clients, medical comms agencies, health market research agencies, management consultants and advertising agencies.


When it comes to fieldwork, the LDA Reasearch team is made up of experts in the provision of pharmaceutical and medical qualitative research. Give us a call to find out more – 01525 861436

Doctor consultations are increasingly being held remotely by phone or online – how does this affect patients?

Doctor consultations are increasingly being held remotely by phone or online – how does this affect patients?

Doctor consultations are increasingly being held remotely by phone or online – how does this affect patients?

How long is it since you’ve seen your GP? Even patients with long-standing, or chronic health conditions, are now likely to be accustomed to phone or online consultations rather than face-to-face appointments. This shift had been mooted for a while, but Coronavirus proved the catalyst for a major step change in the way GPs deliver their healthcare services.

In a speech to the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) in July 2020, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, stated that the new way of working was one of the lessons that needed to be learnt from Covid-19. Moving forward, he suggested that all GP appointments should be handled remotely, unless the patient specifically needs to see a doctor at their surgery.


GP Reaction to Online Consultation

Throughout March and April in the UK, more than 70% of GP appointments were being conducted by phone, or online. This radical shift meant that both GPs and patients had quickly to get used to a different way of working. The LDA team spoke to a GP who saw real benefits: “It’s gives me more flexibility, and I can ‘see’ more patients”. It was noted, however, that younger patients tended to be more adept at handling digital tech, which meant older, more vulnerable patients still needed to be seen in person.

The majority of GPs recognise that phone or online consultations do offer real value to patients. For simple ‘transactional consultations’ a quick phone call is far preferable to the time spent travelling, waiting and seeing a doctor in person. There’s a resistance, though, to seeing them as a ‘cure all’. Dr Martin Brunet, a GP in Surrey, makes the case for relationship-based medicine involving patients who:

“rely on face-to-face interaction, such as those with learning difficulties or hearing impairment, or who simply feel that the trust they need to place in their GP requires being able to see them in person.”

Patients Talk About Remote Consultation

It’s not only GPs who are having to adjust their relationship to healthcare. Patients who may, in the past, have relied on their GP diagnosing health issues by ‘looking’, are now having to describe symptoms, or upload images for diagnosis. A patient we spoke to said:

“Our surgery has a link so you can upload images. I used this recently for a chronic wound and it worked well. But is does require some technical know-how to take a good image, show scale and upload it.”

Lots of patients noted the benefits of not having to take time off work to attend the doctor’s surgery. Older people, however, talked about the importance of having a relationship with their doctor:

“As an older person with lots and lots of health problems I needed help to manage phone consultations. I really wanted the reassurance of seeing my doctor, and the same doctor each time.”

GP Surgery Demographics Will Determine Approach

For GP practices with a predominantly young catchment, the way forward is clear. Face-to-face appointments will be the minority option. However, time freed up by online consultations may mean that in-person appointments could stretch beyond the customary 10 minutes. Where the surrounding demographic is older, the approach will need to take this into account. GPs are happy to recognise the benefits of remote consultations, but emphasise that they shouldn’t become the default.


About LDA Research

LDA Research was set up in 2011 by Lucy Doorbar. The close-knit, core team now works with a global network of trusted associates. LDA carries out qualitative research for medical and pharmaceutical clients, medical comms agencies, health market research agencies, management consultants and advertising agencies.


When it comes to fieldwork, the LDA Reasearch team is made up of experts in the provision of pharmaceutical and medical qualitative research. Give us a call to find out more – 01525 861436

How Can Healthcare Companies Help to Tackle Obesity?

How Can Healthcare Companies Help to Tackle Obesity?

The personal is now political – how can healthcare companies help to tackle obesity in the age of Covid?

For decades now, we’ve been aware that obesity shortens lives by making us more susceptible to heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Obesity rates in the UK are high, with 7 in 10 men and 6 in 10 women overweight, or obese. A worrying number of children are now living with obesity even before they start school, a condition which is likely to have an impact throughout their lives.


Obesity and Covid-19

Data gathered throughout the Covid-19 ‘peak’ in the UK demonstrates that there is a link between obesity and Covid-19 hospitalisation and deaths. Evidence cited by Public Health England shows that people testing positive with Covid-19, who are overweight, or living with obesity, are:

  • More likely to be admitted to hospital
  • More likely to be admitted to intensive care, and require advanced treatment
  • Potentially at higher risk of Covid-19 related death

The Government Obesity Strategy 2020

“These plans are ambitious and rightly so. Tackling obesity will help prevent serious illness and save lives.” Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE

Described as “one of the biggest health crises the country faces”, the links to Covid have made obesity a priority for the present government. A new raft of measures has been designed to improve the health of the nation, lower the risk of Covid deaths for the population, and protect the NHS against a ‘second wave’.

The measures include a ban on TV adverts for unhealthy foods prior to 9pm, an end to ‘buy one get one free’ deals on unhealthy items, the listing of calories on menus, and a public comms campaign, including the use of apps, to encourage people to eat healthily, exercise and understand nutrition.

The Reaction From GPs

Having collected reactions from GPs to the government’s strategy, three distinct strands emerge:

  1. Access to Internet for Target Demographic. One GP we spoke to was clear that the patients he sees are from a deprived area, and are unlikely to have access to the internet, or phones. The app wouldn’t be appropriate to them, therefore. There was also concern that older people would be unlikely to use an app to help them lose weight weight, or eat more healthily.
  2. Effective Communications. In order to reach the government’s target demographic, a basic strategy such as a printed leaflet could be the best option. It should be easy to read, available in a number of different languages, and offer small simple changes people can remember. Maybe even a tear-off list – something that’s tailored to how life really is for most people.
  3. Fostering Engagement. For GPs the most effective way to approach obesity with patients is to have a supportive conversation that focuses on the positives that can easily be achieved. Often it’s a shock – like a heart attack, or Covid-19 – that ‘wakes people up to tackling their weight’. Then they need to have suggestions that are appropriate to their lives. “It’s not about running a marathon. It’s small changes. Like just going for a walk.”

For Healthcare Companies – Simple is Best

Practical advice, like a free exercise programme that could be prescribed to people living with obesity, would be a great help. We know that people living in areas of social and economic deprivation are less motivated to lose weight, due to the range of anxieties they face each day. For them, simple solutions that cost nothing, presented in a familiar language, and in a format that is available to all, is by far the most effective approach.


About LDA Research

LDA Research was set up in 2011 by Lucy Doorbar. The close-knit, core team now works with a global network of trusted associates. LDA carries out qualitative research for medical and pharmaceutical clients, medical comms agencies, health market research agencies, management consultants and advertising agencies.


We specialise in qualitative research using a range of online and offline methodologies. Give us a call to find out more – 01525 861436

How is Covid-19 Reshaping Medical Market Research

How is Covid-19 Reshaping Medical Market Research?

How is Covid-19 Reshaping Medical Market Research?

The Covid-19 pandemic has dominated headlines since March 2020, and affected every part of our social, private and professional lives. We’ve all had to learn to adapt, in fairly extreme ways, to the changes the virus has wrought. Now as we move beyond its initial stages in the UK, there’s time to consider the nature of those changes and the impact they’ve had on the sectors in which we work.

LDA Research is a qualitative research provider specialising in medical market research for the pharmaceutical and medical device sector. We observed that, over the lockdown period, healthcare professionals quickly adopted meeting platforms as a key communication strategy. Likewise, medtech and pharmaceutical companies escalated their use of digital communication.

Given the necessary focus on the digital space for our clients, LDA Research was able to contribute innovative insight gathering methods. These facilitated ongoing qualitative research and opened up a range of new possibilities going forward.


Innovative Market Research Solutions

For all medical research companies, it has become impossible to run face-to-face research. LDA Research has long been recognised as a leader in the development of creative and innovative research methodologies. This stood us in good stead when tackling Covid challenges.  We were able to offer our clients a number of digitally-located research methods. These cost less than face-to-face meetings, provide a secure environment, and offer comparative research outcomes.

Using Digital Meeting Platforms for Qualitative Research

Prior to Covid, many of our medical market research clients had expressed a natural preference for physical focus groups. This is completely understandable as a face-to-face encounter ‘feels’ more authentic and allows clients direct access and real time interaction . Having to move to group meetings online, however, has proved far less of a leap than might have been expected.

Choosing the right meeting software was key to making the process work. We found that Microsoft Teams was accessible to the greatest number of our participants; doctors – for example – are already using this software in their work. It was easy to download, or access, and it worked well for the group sizes we facilitate.

Our clients were able to observe the participants via the screen, without being visible. And it was easier for the project sponsor to communicate directly to the moderator during the session because they were no longer in a separate room.


Creative Online Qualitative Research Methods

Once technology becomes a creative partner in medical market research, the potential for its use proliferates rapidly. The LDA team are known for their new and innovative medical market research methodologies. The events of 2020 have allowed us to utilise many of these innovations.

We are experts in:

  • Daily/weekly video diaries
  • Online questionnaires tracking participants’ responses over a period of days or weeks
  • Participants receive products by post.  Photo responses demonstrate problems, or positive/salient experiences
  • Voice blogs

New Research Questions Following on From Covid

The way that we perceive and work within healthcare has changed for the short-term – and possibly forever – thanks to Covid. We’re currently involved in studies considering ways in which NHS patients can be managed without using a ‘trip to the hospital’ as a default solution. LDA Research are also undertaking research into how product manufacturers can communicate in different ways with healthcare professionals, that minimise the need for face-to-face contact.

The legacy of fresh and innovative insight gathering approaches provided by LDA Research is now helping to determine the future direction of medical market research in a post-Covid world.


About LDA Research

LDA Research was set up in 2011 by Lucy Doorbar. We’re a small, core team working alongside a global network of trusted associates. We carry out qualitative research for medical and pharmaceutical clients, medical comms agencies, health market research agencies, management consultants and advertising agencies.


If you’re looking for a fresh and innovative approach to medical marketing research, give us a call to find out more about what we do – 01525 861436

A Framework for Effective Medical Market Research Moderation

A Framework for Effective Medical Market Research Moderation

A Framework for Effective Medical Market Research Moderation

At LDA Research, we’re well aware of the key role our moderators play in successfully delivering medical market research interviews. That’s why we work with specialist moderators, all of whom have either worked in the medical sector, or held senior medical research positions. This allows them to confidently dig a little deeper when conducting qualitative field research.


The Role of the Medical Market Research Moderator

A good moderator is far more than an articulate interviewer. LDA clients are looking for the kind of detailed field research which can only arise out of an interview that employes elements of conversational flow. The give and take of this more personal exchange allows personally-held opinions, and beliefs to be shared without fear of misrepresentation, or misunderstanding.

This requires moderators who:

  • Exhibit clear professional understanding of the discussion topic
  • Demonstrate an authentic interest in the discussion
  • Show respect for the knowledge and views of respondents
  • Know how to manage the flow of an interview to ensure it concludes on time
  • Accurately summarise respondents’ answers
  • Listen actively and respond without becoming emotionally involved

At LDA Research we are able to guarantee our clients moderators who meet all these criteria. But we also go a step further. We know that even the best moderator will be unable to achieve their best work if the framework that supports them is weak.


We have five rules that govern all the work we do with our medical market research:

1. Introduce Moderators to Respondents

The quality of the relationship between moderator and respondent begins with their introduction to each other. We don’t leave anything to chance at this crucial stage, therefore. We always introduce moderators, by name, as soon as we can. The introduction always includes contact details which would normally include email, mobile phone number and landline. Once the intro is made, our moderators will follow up.

2. Provide Detailed Schedule for Moderators

The interview event is the most important aspect of the research. So we make absolutely sure that the moderator is given the interview date as soon as it’s confirmed with the respondent. At this stage we also provide detailed notes on where the respondent will be when carrying out the interview, and whether there are contingencies (such as an emergency call out) that could cut the interview short.

3. Keep Moderators Involved

Moderators are copied in to all email correspondence with respondents once the introduction has been made. This builds the relationship with the respondent, and keeps them involved in ongoing arrangements leading up to interview. We want to ensure, at every stage, that the moderator is closely involved with the process leading to interview.

4. Provide all Necessary Documents Before Being Asked

We’re proactive in our provision of documentation for moderators. And for good reason. We want our moderators to have plenty of time to familiarise themselves with the discussion guide, and materials. We know our moderators are professionals who need time to reflect on the goal of the interview in order to consider how best to achieve it. So, for example, we’ll set up a pre-survey run through with the aim of considering the spectrum of expected answers, and we encourage moderators to ask questions at this stage. Our aim is always to obtain the best data.

5. Fully Brief Moderators on Software and Innovative Formats

At LDA Research we pride ourselves on the innovative nature of our research formats. This means that we need to keep our moderators fully briefed when using new software applications, or delivery methods. We recently ran a workshop that involved war gaming and virtual hospital modelling with nurses and pharmacists. In this instance, we provided detailed briefing and materials prior to the workshop to allow moderators to try out the software and feel confident using it.


LDA Research Creates The Foundations for Successful Research Interviews

LDA Research is a learning organisation that relies on our moderators not only to deliver well, but also to offer us feedback on how we’re doing. All feedback is considered carefully, and often leads to adjustments in how we operate. The end goal is always the very best qualitative research outcomes for our clients, and we’re confident we have the support network to achieve this.


Looking for bespoke qualitative medical market research, supported by expert moderators? Call LDA Research on 01525 861436 to find out more about the services we offer.