When and how to conduct research in the medical field 

Editor’s note: Trace Sells is the marketing and account manager for MDOutlook®, a CEA company, and can be contacted at tsells@solutions.mdoutlook.com. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “How to Conduct Medical Market Research For Your Product.”

What is medical market research? 

Medical market research is often conducted to understand and inform many different aspects of diseases, conditions and products used to treat patients. For example, research may be conducted to understand a product’s market dynamics, inform key life cycle decisions and make predictions about future performance. This important tool involves the interpretation of data from a breadth of resources covering pre-launch, launch and optimization stages of the product life cycle.  

Evidence-based decision-making is a critical determinant of a treatment’s success. Rather than reacting to perceived market needs, companies can more directly meet customer demands based on observed outcomes. This can end up saving companies time and money during the vital stages of a treatment’s life cycle, ensuring that the right products are reaching the right patient at the right time. 

Medical market research includes the interpretation of data from different techniques including:

  • Customer segmentation.
  • Consumer behavior.
  • Customer satisfaction.
  • Incidence studies and general dynamics.
  • Choice models. 

By adopting a research-to-results approach to product development, companies can gain an intimate understanding of the market ahead of important milestones, increasing their competitive advantage. 

A stethoscope and a pair of glasses on medical charts.

When to conduct medical market research

Medical market research should be used at all stages of product development. Prior to treatment development, research should focus on determining whether there are unmet needs in the market and how they can be addressed with new products or treatments. 

Once a need is identified, medical market research should shift to understand patients, geographies and market segmentation. Robust pre-launch medical market research supports teams ranging from marketing and sales to market access and medical affairs to develop effective launch plans. 

As a treatment nears launch, companies apply data to plan for clinical trials with specific patient types and geographies. For existing treatments, research plans are designed to inform potential new indications. 

After launch, medical market research often shifts to performance tracking. For new treatments and new indications, the goal is to determine overall success and the steps needed to optimize performance over time. 

Questions to ask when conducting medical market research

Medical market research informs decision makers so they can predict and plan for future events and behaviors that will impact a treatments success. Here are some common factors to study when beginning to outline your approach: 

The existing treatment landscape.

  • What is the disease state?
  • Are there existing treatments?
  • Overall treatment effectiveness?
  • Safety concerns?
  • Treatment tolerability for patients?

The marketplace and its dynamics.

  • How do payers, providers and patients perceive the existing treatments?
  • Are there unmet needs? What are they?
  • What benefits would a new treatment provide?
  • Would payers be willing to pay for a new treatment?
  • Would clinicians be willing to alter their prescribing habits?

The experts who can inform trials, studies and presentations.

  • Do we understand existing clinical practices and networks? 
  • Are we familiar with the hospitals and treatment centers?
  • Can we identify treatment algorithms and best practices by medical group, institution, specialty and network?
  • Do we understand payers and their healthcare plans?

Breaking down the market by geography and patient demographics is essential. Everything from disease prevalence, comorbidities, socioeconomic and education/income levels can impact development and launch plans. 

Four research process tips

By working with a research partner that has significant medical market research experience companies can fuel their research efforts and make sure new product initiatives succeed. 

Here are four tips as you begin the research process:

1. Start early so that you have ample time to gather all the information you need and to pivot when and where necessary. 

2. Lean on proven research partners to find the qualified respondent sample you need at the right time. 

3. Employ “just in time” nimble research that can be deployed quickly and adjusted. 

4. Execute timely performance tracking to understand how a launch is performing and what interventions can optimize performance.