The Value of Market Research for Hospice and Palliative Care

 In Competing in a Crowded Market, Improving Satisfaction Scores, Preparing for the Future

Hospice and palliative care are not topics that are top-of-mind for a majority of people. These specialized areas of healthcare are misunderstood by the general public. Misperceptions and biases prevent far too many people from not only seeking care when it’s appropriate but from even learning more about it.

For organizations that provide hospice and palliative care, educating your community about the expert care and support you provide while combating long-held misperceptions must seem like a daunting task. Rather than assuming what your community may or may not know about you or the services you provide, ask them.

Gathering data to quantify the current knowledge level through market research is an important first step. Market research supports one of the greatest marketing rules – “Know your audience.”

Encouraging families to engage with your organization – and starting that relationship sooner – relies on knowing what matters most to them. What do they know about your organization? What do they know about hospice and palliative care? What are the key points that will pique interest and spur action of family healthcare decision makers in your community?

The research can be used to gain an understanding of the community’s awareness and knowledge level, giving you guidance as to where to start in the education process. Also, research will act as a guiding force in message development for your target audience by giving you insight into what they will be most receptive to hearing and in what way.


Types of market research

There are two main types of research – quantitative and qualitative.

Through the quantitative method, you gather input through online or phone-based surveys. Survey questionnaires consist of close-ended questions, such as multiple choice or a scale to assess level of agreement; open-ended questions for short answers; or a combination of both. This type of data is helpful to quantify attitudes, behaviors or opinions. For results to be representative of your community, the number of completed surveys needs to be a statistically significant representation of your service area. The analysis of the results generates numerical data.

Qualitative research typically is obtained through small focus groups of approximately eight to 12 participants and one-on-one interviews. While not representative of a community, qualitative data is valuable for obtaining underlying reasons for attitudes, behaviors and opinions. With the complexity of hospice and palliative care, focus groups can provide important insight into perceptions, knowledge level and willingness to learn more about the care and support you provide.


What we’ve learned from family healthcare decision makers

Not all providers are in a position to fund a research study on their community. That’s ok, especially if you are just beginning to educate your community about hospice and palliative care or end-of-life care. You need to begin with the fundamentals … the “what” about care and support you provide and the “why” about your medical expertise and compassionate approach.

During the past 18 years, Transcend Strategy Group has surveyed more than 18,000 family healthcare decision makers across the country. Here are a few things we’ve learned that can be applied as a starting point to educate your community about the valuable services you provide:

  • Most consumers don’t know they have a choice in who provides their hospice care. A common belief is that hospice is a government program and “you go to the one in your county.” If consumers don’t know they have a choice, how can they choose your program – especially if a referrer recommends a competitor? Fewer than 10 percent can name a differentiating detail of any hospice.
  • Let patients and families know they can self-refer for hospice About two-thirds of consumers don’t know they can refer​ themselves or a family member to hospice. A majority of people believe they have to wait for a doctor’s “order.” About 85 percent of consumers say they would feel comfortable calling call a hospice.​ Of those, more than 40 percent say they would wait until directed to do so by a physician. ​Encourage people to contact you directly for more information about your services without obligation.
  • Help people understand why they should choose your hospice Fewer than 10 percent of consumers can name a differentiating factor of any hospice provider. “Location” is cited as the most distinguishing detail. For providers in a competitive market, it’s important to communicate factors that differentiate your organization over others in your community. These factors are the “why” that set you apart from other providers.

After you’ve communicated the fundamentals about hospice and palliative care and why they should choose you, research will help you take your messaging to the next level. The results can show where the community places value – on support services, medical expertise or easy access to services. This information is invaluable for providers to ensure the messages they communicate meet the needs and value system of the community.

Effective communication about hospice and palliative care aids understanding and inspires action. To succeed with such a complex subject, you must have a solid understanding of your key audiences combined with knowledge of their values and the barriers that prevent them from seeking hospice and palliative care.

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