Blogging with health care professionals: engagement & activation

With online qualitative research methods being increasingly accepted and popular within healthcare and life science market research, more online studies are conducted with patients and health care professionals (HCPs) than ever before. Whereas the patient is generally more engaged and interested in participating in these studies out of deep involvement with his or her medical condition, HCPs are more reluctant to participate for a variety of reasons. Incentives are but one frequently used solution to get this group of professionals to participate. But what are other ways of getting the attention of these professionals?
Moreover, how can we keep them engaged and active throughout longitudinal online qualitative research? Read on to find out more about the ‘tricks of the trade’ when it comes to successfully conducting a HCP blog and how we gathered 663 unique posts in 10 days.

Blogging with gynaecologists

Recently we set up a ten-day blog study with gynaecologists for Gedeon Richter, a Hungarian pharmaceutical company which recently opened a branch in Belgium. In order to fully immerse in the topic at hand and explore the market, three blogs were set up to run simultaneously in The Netherlands and Belgium (both in Flanders and Wallonia). Due to the asynchronous and individual character of the study, the physicians could participate on a daily basis at a moment and location of their preference and convenience. Over the 10 days, 11 tasks were carried out by the gynaecologists, with an average time investment of 20 minutes a day.

Activity through the roof

In the first few days of the study we already found that most gynaecologists were very eager to participate, their enthusiasm resulting in far more blog posts than we had expected upfront. Whether we talked about their dealings with patients, information needs or treatment choices, the gynaecologists kept giving us very rich feedback. After ten days of trying to keep up with the amount of data, we ended up with 467 unique blog posts by 15 HCPs in The Netherlands, 138 in Flanders and 58 in Wallonia by respectively 5 and 4 gynaecologists.
The total number of posts shows a clear difference between both countries. Apart from individual factors, this could be attributed at least partly to a higher working pressure in Belgium on the one hand (resulting in less time to participate) and a more open, ‘sharing culture’ in The Netherlands on the other hand.
But how did we manage to keep the gynaecologists engaged and activated and to get so much input? Without presenting an exhaustive list or all-encompassing method, here are two important yet often overlooked factors that played a part in making this blog study with HCPs a success:

1. Alone, but not lonely

One of the defining characteristics of blog research is that communication is purely one on one (the HCP and the moderator), with communication between participants non-existent. Therefore, it is important first of all that the moderator is always appreciative of the participant’s input and supportive and helpful when it comes to the functionalities of the platform.
Secondly and often overlooked, HCPs time and again state their desire to know what their peers answer on the blog and how they deal with and think about certain topics. One of the key elements of keeping HCPs engaged and active on the blog therefore is to provide them with feedback, not only on their own input, but also on that of the entire group of participants. Both in moderation (“Thank you, that is very interesting. Your colleagues also indicate that…”) and in weekly updates or newsletters (“Thank you for all your enthusiasm this week. I have learned from you that…”), the curiosity of the HCP can be satisfied and his or her attention and engagement maintained.

2. Sharing is caring… and engaging

Whether it is a new detail aid or the results from a previous quantitative study, HCPs appreciate and are interested in giving feedback on materials which tickle their curiosity. Instead of just firing questions at them, sharing such materials on the blog gets you direct feedback and engagement. HCPs want and need to stay up-to-date about health care in general and the advancement of treatments in their field of expertise in particular, so showing them something new is interesting for them. In other words, sharing is caring and engaging. And of course: an engaged participant is an active participant!

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