In a recent episode of the popular healthcare podcast from TouchPoint Media, hosts Chris Boyer and Reed Smith discussed the role of market research to grow a hospital or healthcare system’s brand. Chris interviewed Joe Ridgway, President of Bruno and Ridgway Research Associates, to learn about the different ways hospitals and healthcare systems use market research in their strategies.
During the interview, Chris brought up an interesting point: Many hospitals look at market research in an episodic way.
For example, a hospital often conducts market research when launching a new brand or introducing a new product, service or website. Mandated research methods such as Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) and HCAHPS surveys offer value. However, healthcare marketers who want to build their brand need more granular information.
Should hospitals be moving towards integrating more market research into everything they do on an ongoing basis? What are the best ways to conduct ongoing market research in healthcare?
Joe Ridgway shared four types of market research that hospitals should consider conducting on a regular basis. (“Regular” could mean annual or biannual.) These methods are critical for our hospital clients as they continue to grow their brands:
1. Consumer Market Assessment (CMA)
Consumer Market Assessment research is designed to capture representative insights among consumers in a hospital’s core market areas. Healthcare is ever-changing, so hospitals (with the budget to do so) often conduct market assessments on an annual basis.
a) Determine whether an expansion project is feasible. If a healthcare system is looking to open a new ambulatory care center, outpatient center or a service line within a hospital, consumer insights determine if the project makes sense.
b) Keep a pulse on the attitudes, perceptions and usage surrounding your hospital. With competitive landscape and major consolidation seen in healthcare, hospitals need to get a temperature for what consumers' feelings are about the hospital and their likelihood to use that hospital. Maintaining these insights is how great health systems stay ahead.
2. Physician Satisfaction Research
Physicians are the spokespeople for your hospital and hopefully the last touchpoint that a patient has. It becomes important that their feedback and experience working at your hospital is not overlooked.
a) Improving work-life balance, leading to a stronger patient experience
b) Finding effective ways to communicate with physicians
c) Discovering opportunities to support physicians through new programs
3. Employee Engagement Research
For hospitals who do not have a budget to conduct regular market assessments, engaging with employees is a cost-effective way to learn what they hear about your hospital in daily life. Nurses, physicians, case managers, secretaries, technicians, etc. hear people talk about your hospital’s brand in both clinical and everyday settings.
a) Learn about consumers' attitudes, awareness and experiences at the hospitals without investing in a full CMA
b) Learn about the attitudes and perceptions that staff have about the hospital
4. Ad Testing
On account of how much time and resources are involved in healthcare advertising efforts, many hospitals integrate ad testing market research into every campaign.
a) Determine the most effective ad concept prior to a campaign launch. We are able to test multiple ad concepts for likability, meaningfulness, believability and the likelihood to act in little time and within any budget.
b) Test for advertising recall among consumers post-launch. We often conduct a market assessment for our hospital clients to determine if their advertising is resonating among consumers.