Comms Testing in Qualitative Healthcare Market Research

Communications Testing

Read this blog to discover the ever-changing communications market, the different qualitative market research methods used in communications testing, how different target audiences require different marketing communications strategies, and more.


Communications: An ever-changing market

In the US, spending on various medical marketing campaigns (including disease awareness, lab testing and drug marketing) increased from $17.7 to $29.9 billion between the years 1997-2016 [1]. Interestingly, rather than targeting medical marketing campaigns towards health-care professionals, the most significant increase in spending was on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising [1].

This substantial increase in medical marketing is shown to be spread disproportionately across multiple sectors and target audiences. Consistency within marketing communication campaigns has previously been shown to benefit a brand by ensuring its image was constant [2]. However, growing research reveals that inconsistency within marketing could have positive cognitive effects on a customer base by exciting their interest with new stimuli [2]. This highlights not only the constant change of customer preferences, markets, and competitors, but also the importance of continuous market analysis to stay informed on the ever-changing market.

Communications testing is one method of analysing the efficiency of medical marketing. In this month’s blog, IDR Medical explore methods of communications testing and their efficiency at achieving the end goal of increased customer traffic and revenue.


Communications testing results in the refinement of a message so that it is well received by a target audience

Communications testing is defined as the analysis of the efficiency by which a company conveys information about their services to stakeholders. This is key to the successful promotion of services and increasing brand size.

Communications testing is important as it:

  • Allows a company to understand the market and to develop a strategy to refine communications before launching a product
  • Determines the suitability and efficacy of communications materials, including multiple types of media and campaigns
  • Brings in new customers to whom the marketing message resonates
  • Increases return on investments (ROI) by expanding the customer base


Methods of communications testing

The effectiveness of communications can be measured by collecting both quantitative and qualitative healthcare market research data. Qualitative information is usually collected via group discussions, interviews, and behavioural observations, whereas quantitative data is most often collected using various formats of questionnaires.

To determine the suitability of communication, qualitative research strategies are commonly used. With a new project, qualitative analysis allows any issues with communication to be explored in depth, with a somewhat small sample size to better understand their views. The diverse responses from stakeholders may indicate common themes in areas for improvement, highlighting where advertising can be enhanced for optimum impact.


Multiple methods of collecting qualitative data in medical market research can be applied including:


  1. Interviews
    Delivered in multiple styles and structures, e.g., face-to-face, online, or telephone.

  2. Focus groups
    To capture significant amounts of information beyond what is planned in a discussion guide, within a short time frame.

  3. Ethnography
    The contextual observation of a participant’s behaviour as they perform their daily tasks, e.g. video diaries.


Since qualitative healthcare market research produces copious amounts of verbatim information from multiple different target stakeholders, common themes need to be identified so that data can be handled efficiently.


Coding provides a structured method of data handling for colloquial responses by identifying different themes, as outlined below:


  1. Step 1: Coding
    Code values are assigned to questions so that results can be processed by their frequency of incidence.

  2. Step 2: Editing
    Any completion errors are identified and corrected. Any suspect responses are removed.

  3. Step 3: Data entry
    Data is recorded for each sample.


Data can then be interpreted to determine stakeholder satisfaction with a marketing communications campaign and used to refine the impact of these communications. However, the target audience must be taken into consideration.


Different target audiences require different marketing communications strategies

Marketing campaigns must be altered depending on their target audience. As previously mentioned, it has been shown that the most significant increase in spending on marketing campaigns is on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising [1]. This disproportionate rapid increase in DTC advertising implies that medical marketing is becoming more focused on patient centred healthcare [3].


Today, the satisfaction of patients is directly related to compensation from healthcare companies and medical malpractice claims [4], so it is important that medical marketing campaigns focus on increasing positive patient engagement.

To achieve this, the marketing message must be appropriately targeted by:

  • Using language and terminology that can be understood
  • Using content that is relatable and appeals emotionally, to establish trust
  • Being sensitive to medical conditions

Communications testing comes into play to determine how patients respond to campaigns and to determine their suitability with regards to what should be included or excluded.

Healthcare Professionals

Medical marketing campaigns that target healthcare professionals, including C-suite executives, are much more specialised in their language. It is important to spark the interest of healthcare professionals and attract the attention of senior executives by appealing to their specific goals and patient needs.

Communications testing comes into play to test if a message is clear and relevant, whilst also appearing emotionally attractive to the target audience, considering both demographic and psychographic characteristics.


A round diagram displaying key features of medical marketing communications strategies targeted at healthcare professionals (competitive, attracts attention, benefits patients, innovative features, cost effective) and patients (sensitive, relatable, communicates product benefits, appeals emotionally, clear).

Figure 1: Key features of medical marketing communications strategies targeted at healthcare professionals and patients.


Medical marketing messages resonate more deeply with stakeholders when they can relate to the information given by using a tone that the audience understands and communicating in a personalised manner.


How can IDR Medical help?

Communications testing is a valuable part of any medical marketing process, ensuring that an effective campaign is delivered.

At IDR medical we are experts in uncovering actionable market and customer insight with quantitative and qualitative healthcare market research initiatives to shape new medical products and drive commercial success. We provide independent, fact-based market analysis that ensures our clients make the right strategic and investment decisions by identifying leverage points that drive market development.

To find out more about how we can help your business understand developments within the medical market, please do not hesitate to contact us to arrange a discussion to understand how we can assist you.

Get in touch now



[1] Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. Medical Marketing in the United States, 1997-2016. JAMA. 2019 Jan 1;321(1):80-96. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.19320. PMID: 30620375.

[2] Navarro M.A., Delgado E., Sicilia M. (2010) Integrated Marketing Communications: A Test for Different Levels of Strategic Consistency. In: Terlutter R., Diehl S., Okazaki S. (eds) Advances in Advertising Research (Vol. 1). Gabler. 

[3] Ortiz SE, Rosenthal MB. Medical Marketing, Trust, and the Patient-Physician Relationship. JAMA. 2019;321(1):40–41. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.19324.

[4] Prakash B. Patient satisfaction. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010 Sep;3(3):151-5. doi: 10.4103/0974-2077.74491. PMID: 21430827; PMCID: PMC3047732.


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