Bj’s 30 Years in 30 Days—June 15 The Universe: Qualified

  Bj Kirschner      15 June 2022     

The month of June marks my 30th Anniversary in market research. Since 30 days hath June and I love a good countdown, I have decided to do a Market Research Thought of the Day each day in June. Enjoy! Bj

Bj’s 30 Years in 30 Days—June 15 The Universe: Qualified

Welcome back to this week’s multi-post discussion of feasibility in recruiting.  If it seems a little basic at the onset, that’s by design.  Sometimes we need to revisit the parts we think we know just to re-establish the baseline.

Here is the statement for the week:

The universe is not the population of a country, the number of HCPs in a given specialty, the number of patients with a condition, all drinkers of wine, etc.  The universe is people who are reachable, qualified, available and interested.

What does it mean for someone to be qualified?  It means they pass a client-approved set of screening questions.  Again, like yesterday, we are looking at just qualifying, no other issue: a potential respondent passes through a client-approved set of questions.

It’s the screener itself, rather than that potential respondent, that does the heavy lifting.  So, let’s start there, using a few bullet points to address the creation of a screener.  I am going to use patient studies as examples for consistenc

  • The screener should be lean!  The screener should contain nothing beyond specific information that qualifies. Deeper probing questions, nice-to-have-demographics, etc. should not be there.  A screener is not the place gather background information on respondents, only foreground information.
    • Let’s say we have a qual study regarding branding for late-stage Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, what should be on the screener?  We need to make sure respondents have NSCLC that has advanced to a late stage and we need to make sure they can speak about the condition. 
    • What should not be on the screener?  Anything that is not directly related to the discussion, which is a branding interview.  Does it matter if they are college graduates?  No.  Does it matter if they have children?  No.  They need to have late-stage NSCLC and be able to speak about it.
    • What could be on the screener used briefly to gain a bit more specific knowledge? It may be helpful to know their treatment history, when they were diagnosed and other information, if that information exposes something that could skew the interview.  Often specific past treatments or other medical facts mean a patient would never be a candidate for the product under discussion, so let’s make sure before we speak to this late-stage patient.
    • A screener is not the place to learn about a condition.  Your end client, HCPs, Internet searches, desk research, those are all great places to learn more about a condition.
    • Think of the respondents when you write the screener, no one else.  You will be speaking to late-stage cancer patients, they are rare, they are ill and they may be scared.  Asking whom in history they would invite for dinner or their entire treatment histories from diagnosis to today is excessive and remember, we want to be lean.
  • The screener should be realistic!  Necessary quotas, timeframes, country specifics, etc. should be flexible.
    • Let’s say we’re doing a Hemophilia Patient study, what quotas could be important?  Given the fact that Hemophiliacs are overwhelmingly male and diagnosed as children, a 50%/50% split of males and females and an even mix of pediatric and adult cases is not realistic.  Many unnecessary quotas on a screener are left over from other studies where they were important.
    • What timeframes are important?  Is whether a patient diagnosed yesterday versus 20 years ago vital to know for this branding interview?  Probably not, but I’m sure the moderator will happily address that during the interview.
    • If you are doing global research, make sure your questions are tweaked for the differences among countries.  In countries with private healthcare systems, the type of insurance a person has absolutely matters and is often the most important factor in their decisions.  In countries with government-run healthcare, it’s unimportant.  Make sure a question asking which treatments they are using has the correct product names for each country (and make sure everything on the list is actually used in each country).
    • We are all working toward greater inclusivity among respondents, but it is still fairly new, lacking industry standards so far.  That is particularly important with questions seeking gender, age, ethnicity and such.  In the US, you cannot ask someone’s age as an open-ended question.  In Japan, it is not appropriate to ask ethnicity.
  • The screener should be blinded?
    • That gets a question mark because that is a client-side decision.  Just be sure that if the intention is blinding to structure the questions in a way that covers appropriately. 
  • The screener can have pre-tasks!
    • In theory, yes, but know your audience.  Our late-stage NSCLC Patients are not an ideal population for 60 minutes of recorded speech per day.  These people have serious lung capacity issues.  They may be better suited to a bulletin board activity.
    • The reason for pre-tasks is to collect information without an overly long screener and to be able to skip certain parts aiming for a manageable length.  That is not a blank check to collect every scrap of information about a respondent beyond what is in the interview itself.
    • For healthcare studies, a trend toward physician verification of the condition is a prickly issue at the moment, investigate the ways to best handle that.
  • The screener must have consents!
    • This applies to every screener for every type of study in every country on every topic.  The consents needed may vary, but there is not a single topic in existence that negates having them.
    • Remember, consents protect the clients and respondents.
  • The screener must be market research!
    • Clinical research, competitive intelligence, etc. are not market research and thus subject to completely different types of information gathering.

Unlike other aspects of finding the right respondents for your study, the balance of what the client wants from a screener and what information respondents should provide is always tilt toward the latter.  That does not mean what the clients need is unimportant, not at all!  It just means a great screener is one that quickly and easily gets to the point for everyone involved.  This is where helpful partnerships come in very handy.  The recruiters administering the screeners are your best source of respondent perspective.  They will know how to keep respondents comfortable and interested.  In exchange for their expertise, explain why the client may want to include certain questions that they might deem unnecessary.  Other than the use of consents and the following of laws, everything else can be tweaked to fit each study to the benefit of everyone involved. 

Questions?  Oh, wait, let me guess…what do we do when the screener terminates everyone or when it’s so broad that everyone is qualifying?  I’m glad you asked, that’s a very important question.

So, tomorrow we hit the next step on our journey, are we having fun?

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