How Was It For You? LDA Respondents Feed Back on Medical Market Research Participation

How Was It For You? LDA Respondents Feed Back on Medical Market Research Participation

The ‘patient experience’ of disease and its treatments is of huge value for pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers. People who live day-in and day-out with a condition can provide unique perspectives on the impact it has on their lives, particularly where the disease is rare or low-prevalence. Among other things, the information shared via research interviews can be used to improve patient support programmes, test equipment and identify gaps in knowledge.

LDA Research now has a decade of experience recruiting patients globally to take part in surveys, one-to-one interviews and online ethnographic studies. We’re very good at finding patients willing to take part in research, and our experienced moderators are at ease as interviewers or facilitators. For most of our respondents though, being the subject of research is a unique and unusual event. We surveyed some of them to find out more about their experience of medical market research participation.

Respondent Feedback Surveys

In order to access respondents’ feedback on participating in research studies, we surveyed two patient groups we’d recently worked with; stoma users and Alzheimer’s patients. Individuals in both groups had participated in one-to-one online interviews for LDA Research and were asked 5 questions relating to their experience.

1. Participatory Motivation

As researchers we were interested to know why people agreed to take part in research interviews. In both groups the responses to this question showed that there was altruism at work. Individuals wanted to use their experiences to help future patients. A number of the stoma users felt that they had developed an expertise that they were keen put to use for the good of others.

“I am always interested in helping out with research because it shapes the future for other people who need the services in the future.”

One Alzheimer’s participant was taking part because they had found it difficult to access any support, so the research was a way to evidence this. Another Alzheimer’s participant viewed the research as an opportunity to “use thinking skills” and “stay alert and active as I slow down mentally”.

2. Being Interviewed

Participants were asked what it was like to be interviewed about their condition. Both groups described the enjoyment they felt at being asked questions and having their responses listened to carefully, and valued. The interviewers were praised for creating a relaxed atmosphere, and giving time to the process.

“Length of time and one-to-one allowed for more in depth discussion with very friendly interviewer. Felt they were interested rather than just trial number gathering”

The stoma users were particularly pleased to know that their experiences were of use, and a few of them appreciated being able to ask questions of the interviewer and receive responses that added to their knowledge. One stoma respondent expressed relief at being able to talk easily about ‘embarrassing’ issues. Another was pleased to learn about the research that the interview was contributing to.

3. Advice on Improving Interviews

LDA constantly reviews their interview process, so we were interested to see if there were any suggestions for improvements from interviewees. When asked if there were any changes they would make to the interview set-up to improve the interview experience, the stoma group participants said they were entirely satisfied and wanted no changes.

Two members of the Alzheimer’s group felt that more reassurance and support prior to the interview would have been helpful to calm nerves. This kind of information is really useful to our ongoing support strategy. We currently work with a number of support groups and provide aftercare for our research participants.

4. How Does LDA Research Excel in Research Interviews?

The answers for this section of the survey were longer than for any other question and were similar across both groups:

  • They use plain language in communications and avoid ambiguity.
  • Friendly interviewers who put you at your ease.
  • There is clear respect for the views of patients and information is reliably passed on to clients.
  • Respondents are given plenty of time to respond to questions; there’s no feeling of pressure.
  • The interviewers are good at listening to the answers give, which is important because what we say shapes future developments.

5. Advice for Potential Respondents

The LDA team was particularly interested in this question, as the responses given provided valuable insights for the kind of approach we make to potential participants. As with Question 1, a number of the respondents emphasised the future benefits that respondents were contributing to – one of them described it as a “win-win” situation.

“Enjoy the experience with the knowledge that your answers will be helping to improve the care of whatever condition from that which they are suffering for themselves and others.”

One of the Alzheimer’s participants recommended participation as a means of improving your self-confidence. Another suggested that it’s a way to get your voice heard and help to shape future treatments. A number of respondents from both groups emphasised the need for ‘honesty’ when answering questions. One of them stated that honesty is important in order to “get better products”.

About LDA Research

LDA Research is an international research provider specialising in the pharmaceutical industry and medical device sector. Our team is renowned for going the extra mile to find the right people for our clients. We use a range of methodologies to produce our qualitative research data. These are always facilitated by professional moderators and interviewers with previous experience working for medical companies or from senior roles in specialist healthcare market research.

If you would like to find out more about our approach, or talk to a member of the team about medical market research, call us today on 01525 861436

What Will Post-Lockdown Medical Market Research Look Like?

What Will Post-Lockdown Medical Market Research Look Like?

The long Covid winter is finally drawing to a close, and the UK is inching ever closer to a graduated end to lockdown. After a year of businesses scrambling to adapt to extraordinary circumstances, we’re now starting to wonder what awaits us as the ‘new normal’ asserts itself. We won’t be returning to the pre-Covid world – too much has changed to allow for that. But do we have a clear idea of what a post-Covid future looks like?

After the endless ‘present’ of the pandemic comes the opportunity for businesses to shape their future once more. The transition will involve making decisions about what we’ve learnt that’s useful, and what ‘got us through’ but is no longer required. At LDA Research we’re starting to review the changes we’ve experienced in the past 12 months,  in light of the future we want to shape for our clients.

4 questions have emerged for us that are key to determining what post-lockdown medical market research will look like:

How Will Global Vaccination Programmes Affect International Travel?

For global research organisations the pandemic is far from over. Whilst the UK vaccination programme is a success, and the dropping infection rates signal the end of lockdown for us, other countries are at different stages. Many European countries are still in some form of lockdown, and UNICEF reports that there are still 130 countries waiting to begin vaccinating their populations.

There is currently a lively discussion concerning the development of Vaccine Passports in order to maintain Covid-safe borders between countries. Until a system is established, travel between countries is unlikely to return to the seamless movement we experienced prior to Covid. As a result, tech solutions will remain central to LDA’s research offering.

Will Clients Want to Maintain Cost-Effective Online Methodologies?

Over the past year clients have experienced the magic of Zoom as an alternative to focus groups, in-person interviewing and tele-depth interviews. For telephone interviews this represents an upgrade to the interview experience, and it’s cost neutral. Where Zoom replaces person-to-person encounters it could be considered a ‘downgrade’, however it’s far cheaper and clients are enthusiastic adopters of the tech approach.

There’s no doubt clients will be looking at their budgets and seeing Zoom as a viable alternative to other kinds of research methodologies. Money, however, won’t be the only factor. Online research interviews allow clients to drop in on the process, and tweak the questions asked in response to what they see. This ‘hands-on’ option is a new kind of challenge for research facilitators to manage, whilst being hugely popular with clients who appreciate the new flexibility it affords.

Is There Any Rationale For Re-Introducing Face-to-Face Interviews?

The LDA Research team recognises that this is a delicate moment for the work of qualitative researchers. Costs, efficacy and pragmatism seem to be pointing towards a tech alternative to in-person groups. So we are taking time to survey the effects Zoom is having on our work and review the qualities that are lost when using the online alternative.

  • Dynamics. Group dynamics are altered when everyone is interacting from a different location. Most noticeably, the technology is not yet unobtrusive enough to allow for a natural conversational flow.
  • Research Aims. Some of the focus groups we set up are designed to reproduce the way a team interacts in their working environment. It is almost impossible to reproduce this kind of simulation online.
  • Product-Based Focus Groups. Online groups can’t touch, use, or experience new products online. Even if products can be sent to individuals, the quality of the experience is different to that of a group.
  • Range of Activities. There are a number of group activities that become ‘clunky’ or difficult online. Visual exercises, such as ‘mapping’ require the use of flip charts and pens. Break-out activities aren’t really possible.

Will Travel Remain Integral to The Research We Do?

Pre-Covid travel was very much a part of the LDA Research landscape. Projects were often planned around where clients, participants or specialists were located, and the cost of travelling and accommodation was ‘baked-in’ to the budget. Now those physical pre-conditions have melted away but our research has continued. So will travel become an anachronism – even within the UK – as we move forward?

There are plenty of reasons not to travel in the near future. The uneven rolling out of vaccinations, and the ongoing vulnerability of some participants make online meetings the default option. There’s also the advantage of being able to bring together experts remotely who might, in the past, have been hampered by distance.

The global pandemic is not, of course, the only crisis we’re facing. Our goals of reaching carbon neutrality over the next two decades will, in part, depend upon a reduction in the amount of travelling we do. Covid may just be nudging us in the right direction.

LDA Research is an international research provider specialising in the pharmaceutical industry and medical device sector. If you would like to talk to a member of the team about our medical market research, call us today on 01525 861436

The Pros and Cons of Using Zoom for Qualitative Research

The Pros and Cons of Using Zoom for Qualitative Research

The global coronavirus pandemic catapulted Zoom into our collective consciousness overnight. All of a sudden everyone was using the verb ‘to Zoom’, and businesses were finding innovative ways to keep their relationships with clients alive as tumble-weed rolled through our town and city centres.

In early 2020 LDA Research was already testing out Zoom as part of our toolbox for qualitative research. What we couldn’t have anticipated, though, was the ready adoption of the platform by clients and participants once face-to-face meetings became impossible.

Is Zoom ‘the Future’ for Qualitative Research?

We’ve seen a growing appetite for the use of Zoom in medical market research this past year, and there’s no sign of it slowing. Given the enthusiasm of clients for the platform, the LDA Research team decided to carry out an internal survey on our usage of Zoom as a research tool over the past 12 months.

What the responses revealed were the strengths and weaknesses of this online methodology from the perspective of participants, clients and researchers. We have organised these into ‘pros and cons’ to get a snapshot of the impact Zoom is having on our work.

Pros of Working With Zoom

Responses have been collated under 3 headings. In each case we present perspectives from researchers, participants and clients:

1. The Quality of the Research Encounter

  • Participants. Being able to see the facilitator makes the experience more ‘real’ than TDIs. Especially important is being able to see their body language; when a facilitator smiles, or nods encouragingly, this helps to relax participants and increase their confidence. Whilst Zoom was preferred to phone interviews, there was no appetite for it replacing face-to-face interviews. Zoom was seen as a ‘stand-in’ for these, rather than an alternative.
  • Clients. The immediacy of being able to observe interviews was valued. Clients reported that they were able to ‘get a feel’ of the responses from participants. The cost-effectiveness of the Zoom methodology was appreciated. Many clients saw Zoom as a viable alternative to other methodologies, with the exception of German clients who saw it as ‘the best available in difficult circumstances’ rather than an alternative to in-person encounters.
  • Researchers. Working on Zoom allowed for a ‘flow’ of communication that would have been less likely on a phone interview. It’s easier to judge how the session is going, and it’s easier to help participants relax. You’re also able to show them products, rather than having to describe them. An excellent addition to the tool-box, but not a replacement. Some participants don’t like being on camera, for example, and prefer a phone call.

2. The Convenience of Using Zoom

  • Participants. It cuts out the travelling time, and you know exactly how much time it will take out of your day. It makes it easier to agree to participate in research interviews.
  • Clients. Using Zoom cuts down on the cost of carrying out research. You can drop in to sessions without having to travel to attend. Take-up rates are better.
  • Research. It makes it easier to recruit participants globally, not just in the UK. Time is a huge factor, so to be able increase time-efficiency is a huge benefit. Travel is reduced for us too, creating more space for other activities.

3. How Easy is Zoom to Use?

  • Participants. Zoom compares favourably with other video-conferencing options. It does rely on you having a good connection though and it’s frustrating if you keep dropping out.
  • Clients. Seems to work very well. Even where there are connection problems they tend to get solved quickly, and it doesn’t affect the session adversely.
  • Researchers. Really user-friendly; just about everyone feels confident using Zoom which makes our job easier. Where there are glitches due to poor connection, everyone tends to be patient and understanding.

Cons of Working With Zoom

We have collected the ‘cons’ into specific concerns raised by participants and/or researchers.

1. Privacy, Consent and GDPR

Researchers. One of the advantages of Zoom for qualitative researchers is that it’s easy to record sessions. Using the using the ‘Webinar’ function on Zoom makes it possible for foreign language interviews to be conducted using simultaneous translation, which is really useful for us. Microsoft Teams presents a GDPR concern as recordings are stored for 3 months on US servers which are subject to less stringent data privacy regulations than European servers.

2. Technical Difficulties

Participants. There are some concerns about being able to connect and sustain a connection. Some participants were worried that they wouldn’t be able to participate properly because of poor connection. There was also an anxiety about holding up the session if their connection went down.

3. Working With Different Markets

Researchers. The use of Zoom for group meetings with participants and clients in China can be problematic as availability is inconsistent. So we have switched to using InterVu (provided by Focus Vision) which provides great IT support. In order to ensure consistency for all participants, the LDA team books a physical meeting space at a central location. The video-conferencing software is set up, and there is someone on site to facilitate any IT issues that may arise.

Use of Zoom for Qualitative Research Going Forward

There’s no doubt that Zoom is an important addition to the range of online qualitative research methodologies we currently offer to our clients. We don’t, however, see it replacing the face-to-face interview. Obviously it’s unsuitable for product testing, but beyond that, there’s a value to face-to-face encounters that can’t be replaced even by the technical immediacy offered by Zoom.

Would you like to know more about the range of pharmaceutical and medical qualitative research carried out by LDA Research? Give us a call – 01525 861436

The Importance of Messaging That ‘Cuts Through’ for HCPs and Patients

The Importance of Messaging That ‘Cuts Through’ for HCPs and Patients

The Importance of Messaging That ‘Cuts Through’ for HCPs and Patients

Amongst the many lessons we will take away from the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of getting public health messaging right. Mistakes – in this instance – can literally cost lives. The ‘Stay Alert’ campaign was widely criticised by the public and psychologists alike for its lack of practical guidelines. Campaigners have also been concerned by the lack of translated materials leading to late, or outdated dissemination of key messages to BAME communities.

Messaging is Key to the Work of HCPs

The issue of effective communication is central to much of the work that HCPs do. Handing patients specialist medications isn’t enough, in itself, to ensure their efficacy. The transaction is two way, requiring that patients take responsibility for administering the medication correctly in order to receive its benefits. And in the gap between prescription and application lies the crucial requirement for clear and effective communication.

HCP Messaging That Cuts Through

At LDA Research we’re interested in why communication between an HCP and their patient ‘cuts through’ in some instances, and fails to do so in others. What are the conditions required for messaging to be ‘heard’ and understood by patients? Where messaging fails, what are the causes and do they lie with the transmitter, or receiver of the information?

The LDA team has carried out numerous research projects with patients managing eczema, diabetes, COPD, high blood pressure and cancer. We collated our findings into ‘High Adherence Behaviours’ and ‘Low Adherence Behaviours’ in order to discern the differences in how diverse patient groups perceive a medical condition and their goals in treating it.

High Adherence Behaviours

Messaging is considered effective where the compliant behaviours are consistently adhered to by patients. We discovered that messaging is most effective where the condition being treated creates short term severe conditions, or where the conditions are severe and chronic. In both cases, the medication outcome is clear and unambiguous – a relief of severe symptoms.

A research project carried out by LDA Research with eczema patients found their condition to be “not life threatening but life altering.” Often sufferers are driven to seek out topical treatments in order to find relief. New injectable therapies such as Dupilumab require a high level of compliance; the patient needs to learn to self inject, manage medication storage and maintain a self injection regime. However, compliance is found to be high because the benefits are highly visible.

Low Adherence Behaviours

Eczema is a highly visible skin condition and sufferers often feel socially embarrassed by their symptoms. Conditions such as COPD, diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure are less visible. Where the symptoms of condition are more intangible, and the medication more preventative rather than curative, HCP messaging is often less effective. Patients may struggle to comply with their treatment regime.

In the case of asthma and COPD patients will tend to over-use rescue therapies, where the impact is immediate, and under-use preventative medication where the goal is deferred. What is lacking with preventative treatments is the motivational drive, possibly underpinned by an uncertainty as to the impact of the treatment on the disease.

4 Ways to Improve ‘Cut Through’ in Messaging

‘Cut through’ is critical to the health of patients, so the rewards of ongoing research and practical innovation in this area are substantial. Based on the work of LDA Research to date, we’re suggesting 4 recommendations for improvement:

  1. Aspirational Messaging. Where the impact of medication is intangible for patients, HCPs may benefit from a more aspirational approach. Asking the patient to imagine a future in which the symptoms are under control, and fully managed, helps to create a motivational goal even though the benefits are physically intangible at present.
  2. Patients Create Messaging. Communication is a two way process; what appears crystal clear as it leaves the mouth of the HCP can seem utterly opaque to the listener. Companies should invest in getting patients themselves to develop materials for other patients. Who better to understand where the barriers to behavioural compliance lie?
  3. Diverse Formats for Support. Supporting materials designed to help patients with their treatment regime need to take into account the range of recipients it is targetting. Web support, or phone apps may not work for all patients. Printed materials may also be required, available in a range of translated versions.
  4. Emotional Support Required. A research project carried out by LDA Research Project with cancer patients reveals the need for emotional as well as medical support during and after their treatment. They request the emotional impact of cancer to be acknowledged; in recognition of the patient as more than as set of physical symptoms.

Would you like to know more about the range of pharmaceutical and medical qualitative research carried out by LDA Research? Give us a call – 01525 861436

Feature Interview with LDA Founder, Lucy Doorbar

Feature Interview with LDA Research Founder, Lucy Doorbar

Feature Interview with LDA Founder, Lucy Doorbar

This month we were lucky enough to be able to schedule in an interview with LDA Founder, Lucy Doorbar. It was a great opportunity to find out how she got started in the medical market research sector, what it was like setting up the company whilst being a mum with small children, and why LDA Research is different from other market research companies.

Hi Lucy, thanks so much for taking time out, I know how busy you are. First of all, could you tell me how you came to set up LDA Research?

As is usually the case, out of adverse circumstances came opportunity. I was made redundant from a small market research company, so I moved to London to work for a larger company. I found the hours just weren’t compatible with being a mum – my children were still very small – so I went freelance. That worked better, and I noticed that I was constantly getting queries about medical market research recommendations. I had quite a bit of experience in this area, and had built up a good network. There was obviously a demand – and so LDA Research was born (laughs).

I started out as an outsourcing business working with a number of countries where I had contacts. For the UK and USA I was doing all the recruiting and interviewing in the early days.

What goals did you have for the business when you started out?

I saw a gap in the medical market research market and I thought that we could fill it. So LDA Research was created to provide a network of consultant level interviewers who would carry out qualitative and quantitative medical market research internationally.

All the people working at LDA are seasoned market researchers with real life experience of the topics they’re discussing, either as researchers or practitioners. As the business has grown we’ve been able to take on young researchers who we’ve trained up, but at our core we’re still a team of medical market researchers who are experts in the field.

You’re known for managing market research internationally, what’s your global reach now?

Most English speaking markets – the US, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, South America, Europe and the Asian markets.

Has the kind of work you do changed over the past decade?

Yes, it’s certainly evolved. At the start it was all medical device market research – qualitative telephone interviewing, and that’s remained at staple to this day. But as we got better known the projects got bigger. Now we also cover the pharmaceutical market as a core part of our business too.

We’ve become known as the company to go to for ‘hard to reach’ groups. Right from the start we’ve always worked really hard on recruiting people for research studies. And we can’t resist a challenge! So if someone asks us to do some work on a niche area where you can’t rely on traditional recruitment methods, we’ll be the ones to find the participants.

There’s no magic ingredient to finding ‘hard to reach’ participants. We put in the time, we do lots of secondary research and we use lots of different social networks. We also work hard building and maintaining good relationships with our respondents.

Do you have an example of a successful use of social media for participant recruitment?

Voice of the Patient has been a great resource for us. We set it up as a Facebook group offering networking opportunities and healthcare information. Over the years it’s become a lively community of interests and we’ve been able to recruit quite a few ‘hard to reach’ participants using it.

What’s the work you’re most proud of?

Oh, that’s hard! I suppose it’s the most challenging work that stays with you. We’ve done some bespoke work with cancer charities. When you’re working with cancer patients, you have to be incredibly sensitive when you’re recruiting respondents. We really thought about their needs and requirements, about what we could ask of – for example – a terminally ill patient, and what they could give. I’m proud of that kind of work.

We also support a number of healthcare charities, and I’m proud that we’re able to do that. We’ve always supported Niemann Pick UK; I got involved supporting them when my eldest daughter was a toddler and I saw a news item about a little girl from Milton Keynes, just a bit older than my daughter who has it. The LDA team also choose a different healthcare charity to support each year, we’re involved in that process at the moment, as a matter of fact.

What do you think are the greatest strengths of the company?

(Laughs) Oh, such a difficult question! Alright, we offer a different model in the medical market research sector. Our team provides a lot more actual experience specific to healthcare than is normally the case. Our moderators are hugely experienced; they tackle different therapy areas but they only do healthcare research.

I like the word ‘tenacious’; I think that’s one of our strengths. We don’t give up. We’ll always go the extra mile, put in the research, work all hours, to produce excellent results for clients. It’s part of the culture here that we’re all happy to put in a bit more effort on all our projects – we really care about the work we do.

You’ve successfully started and grown your own company, Lucy. What advice would you offer to other women wanting to do the same?

I started LDA Research when my children were still small. So there were quite a few nights when I’d get them to bed, and then have to put in a few hours work. It’s hard but you’re working towards something, so you find a way. The good thing about having your own business is that you can work around your own availability, so I got to spend much more time with my children growing up than I would have done working for someone else.

If it matters to you, you find a way to make it work.

Thank you so much; it’s been great talking to you.

Why is Patient Feedback Critical to Rare Disease Treatments?

Why is Patient Feedback Critical to Rare Disease Treatments?

Why is Patient Feedback Critical to Rare Disease Treatments?

A disease is designated as ‘rare’ if it affects only a small proportion of the population (roughly 0.05% in the EU). The term ‘orphan indication’ describes a disease that will most probably be rare, and has – as yet – has no convincing treatment. An ‘orphan drug’ is one that is being developed, or tested, specifically for a rare or orphan disease where no existing treatment is currently available to patients.

The LDA Research team is known for its tenacity and subsequent success rate when it come to medical market research in this area. Patient feedback is absolutely crucial to marketing rare disease treatments. Accessing those patients require a unique approach however, given the small patient numbers, the difficulty of accessing them, and the lack of available data. LDA patient feedback helps client companies to:

  • Understand the market size and referral networks
  • Provide key data for reimbursement and NICE appraisals
  • Understand, through the use of patient stories, how to market the product successfully
  • Locate potential clinical champions who can help with uptake and reimbursement, and foster relationships with Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) programmes.

The Voice of the Patient

Many research agencies are reluctant to even attempt the recruitment of hard-to-reach patients suffering from rare or orphan diseases. This is down to the small population numbers and the time-consuming nature of the pursuit. In order to overcome these challenges, LDA Research has implemented an innovative approach.

Our ‘Voice of the Patient’ Facebook forum opens up an ongoing channel for discussion with a huge variety of members who join in order to share their experiences as ‘patients’. We hold regular, moderated discussions on a wide range of topics to do with different aspects of healthcare. And we regularly provide the opportunities for followers to take part in paid surveys on behalf of sponsors in the medical industry.

The ‘Voice of the Patient’ has enabled us to build far-reaching and sustained links with patients and patient organisations.

Examples of LDA Market Research With Hard-to-Reach Patients

1. Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome

This is a rare syndrome that affects 1-2% of all childhood epilepsies. Onset is usually between 2-7. We contacted carers of children suffering with this syndrome as the patients tend to suffer from cognitive impairment. The carers we spoke to had lots of information that they were keen to share, and were pleased to be able to to help improve support for people living with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome.

2. Intermittent Self Catheterisation

The patients for this new product are designated ‘hard-to-reach’ because they may be suffering from spinal chord injury or urology related problems. This is a ‘sensitive’ area to discuss and we had to reach out to patients who are not members of particular patient associations owing to the differences in their underlying conditions.

“LDA contacted me to talk about intermittent catheterisation. Its a really sensitive issue for me and I was nervous about talking about it, But the recruiter and the interviewer really understood the issues I am facing. I felt that someone had listened to me properly for the first time.”

Additionally, we have recently recruited patients with Cystic Fibrosis, HIV, NSCLC, Von Willebrand Disease and Nephropathic Cystinosis. These are all considered hard-to-reach patient groups and LDA Research takes pride in being considered a trusted source for accessing these patients.

LDA Research team are experts when it comes to locating hard-to-reach patients for participation in medical market research. Give us a call to find out more – 01525 861436

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