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Conducting Medtech Market Research Projects post-COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a degree of uncertainty to the continuity of successful qualitative research.

Last year, face-to-face medtech market research halted during the pandemic as a result of social distancing requirements and stay-at-home guidance.

During lockdown, we relied on live video in-depth interviews, mobile ethnography, and market research online communities to carry out qualitative research that would traditionally be conducted face-to-face in a research facility.

These methodologies have been successful in providing valuable insights to research questions, but there is still a question mark over the future of face-to-face research…


Research undertaken last year was almost exclusively conducted remotely.

Whilst many research methods can easily be completed online, such as unmet need analysis, usability testing has typically been done in person (in a research facility) where the user’s interaction with the product can be observed.

When this became impossible, we had to adapt and make use of digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to conduct usability testing remotely.

This presented challenges. Most of them related to technology and logistics, as respondents had to be sent products/prototypes ahead of the interview and this methodology relies on a good internet connection.

There are also limitations to how much you can get out of testing products remotely. It is impossible to control the user’s experience of the new product, and it is difficult to closely observe their interaction with it.

There are lots of pros to conducting research online: it is more convenient, easier to recruit participants (as you are not limited to a specific location or date), and the end client can easily log onto the platform to watch the interviews remotely.

For usability testing, however, there is no replacement for face-to-face research. So when can we get back to conducting face-to-face research and how do we prepare for it?


The Market Research Society (MRS) is the UK professional body for research, insight, and analytics.

Earlier this year they updated their guidance on undertaking safe face-to-face data collection. Applicable since April, the new guidance is:

  • to only undertake face-to-face data collection when it cannot be achieved using other methods (i.e., mobile ethnography)
  • to undertake risk assessments of any proposed face-to-face research before commencement of the research
  • when face-to-face data collection is undertaken, it can only be in those locations are allowed within the MRS guidance (e.g., have put sufficient COVID-19 precautions in place)
  • in home face-to-face data collection is still restricted to doorstep only
  • research practitioners have a responsibility to protect vulnerable groups, participants, and the reputation of the profession

Other countries will have similar advice from equivalent professional bodies for conducting research. In order to ensure your face-to-face research is conducted successfully and in line with local regulations, consider partnering with a medical market research consultancy.

So, as face-to-face research begins to return as a viable research methodology, there are some things you should consider before planning to conduct this type of research…


5 considerations for conducting face-to-face market research post-COVID:

  1. Is it necessary to conduct the research face-to-face?
    As mentioned earlier, a range of studies can be completed using methodologies such as video in-depth interviews. Online methodologies have proven to be extremely successful for delivering valuable insights.

    However, if you are planning on testing a new medical device it may be more appropriate to conduct the research face-to-face.

    Download our guide to online qualitative research methods to find out more about the pros and cons of these methods and our tips for conducting online qualitative research.

  2. Do you need to talk to vulnerable patient groups?

    It is important to understand that whilst it is becoming possible to conduct face-to-face research again in some markets, certain groups of patients are still vulnerable to COVID-19 and may be reluctant to come into a research facility.

  3. Ensure that the research facility you plan to use is compliant with current COVID guidelines.

    Locations used for medtech market research projects must comply with MRS (or relevant professional body) guidance. They will help ensure the research is conducted safely and in line with local regulations.

  4. Restricting the number of observers that attend the research.

    Thanks to platforms such as FocusVision, it is possible for an unlimited number of observers to still watch the research remotely. They will be able to observe the user’s interactions with the products and ask questions just as they would if they were there.

  5. Expect last minute cancellations.

    Typically for face-to-face research, we would advise over-recruiting by 1 participant per respondent type.

    Due to the current situation, it is likely that you will experience a higher proportion of dropouts. Therefore, it is safer to recruit 2-3 additional participants per respondent type as ‘back-ups’ to mitigate this issue.


As face-to-face research becomes possible again it is important to take a sensitive approach.

Not everyone will feel comfortable attending a research facility, and there are still restrictions in place to ensure face-to-face data collection is completed safely.

A return to face-to-face research is great news for companies wanting to conduct usability testing, as online methods really do not measure up to in-person methodologies.

However, the market research landscape has changed significantly as a result of COVID; the pandemic has driven a rapid migration to online methodologies for market research which have proven very successful in qualitative data collection and will likely become more dominant in the future.  


How IDR Medical can help

IDR Medical has over a decade of experience in conducting market research tailored to healthcare markets. As a renowned market research industry leader, we have conducted projects in over 30 countries to drive success of brands, products, and services of our clients.

If you are interested in conducting a medtech market research project, do not hesitate to contact us. We would be delighted to offer an initial telephone discussion, or an online meeting to understand how we can assist you.

Get in touch now


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