Qualitative Chart Studies
Qualitative studies using patient charts are helpful when little is known about a market, and insufficient data exists to quantify various marketplace scenarios. For instance, a study might focus on the launch of a competitor's product or a new indication for a competing brand to find out what patients are being prescribed the therapy and why. In this case, physicians are recruited to summarize the market environment and help researchers understand why a particular prescription decision is being made.
A qualitative approach is also used to explore a specific patient type or better understand actual decisions related to patient care. In-depth interviews that are centered on patient charts can help researchers and marketers translate the clinical description of a medical condition into the language that physicians hear patients use when describing their symptoms.
Along with providing insight to the market, this translation of clinical criteria into patient language allows market researchers to create surveys for follow-up quantitative research that represent the real-world dialogue of physicians and patients. In addition, brand teams are able to use the information to create effective marketing materials that help physicians easily recognize patients who are experiencing a particular condition.
A qualitative patient chart study can be used to meet the additional following objectives:
- Create a detailed profile of patients who represent the best target for a particular therapy
- Uncover the treatment flow to determine how physicians identify, classify, and treat various types of patients in a therapeutic category
- Identify potential areas for expanding a product's use
The main benefit of this approach is that it enables researchers to engage physicians in discussion about actual patients. As a result, physicians provide real-world information instead of speculation based on hypothetical situations.
A telephone in-depth interview (TDI) platform is most often used for qualitative patient chart studies. Since physicians are not typically permitted by their office to take patient charts to a research facility, telephone—versus face to face—interaction enables respondents to access the records and office support they need to provide the most accurate information.
As with all qualitative research conducted over the phone, this methodology allows for a national representation of participants. This means that physicians in rural markets and other areas normally not covered by traditional research facilities can be reached. Moreover, the platform enables researchers and marketers to listen in on the interviews without affecting physician sensitivities.
For this type of study, physicians are asked to pull a minimum number of patient records that meet a set of criteria prior to the interview. In addition, respondents are asked to fill out a patient profile grid and send it to the research agency before the interview. The grid provides some basic information about the patient and allows the client and researcher to prioritize which patients are discussed in the interview. The following table is an example of a patient profile grid.
Since patient names are not used, the grid also ensures that the moderator and physician are talking about the same patient at any given point in the interview.
Completing a qualitative study using patient charts allows for actual patient profiles to be compiled for the report/presentation. In addition, data from the patient profile grid can be summarized in frequencies and cross-tabulations (although this is not quantitative data and cannot be projected to the entire population).
Furthermore, deliverables based on this methodology are based on actual situations and not respondent hypotheses. For example, the following slide represents a hospital patient flow from admittance to discharge.
For this market, when respondents were asked to describe the patient flow, they gave the standard hospital protocol. When asked the flow for each patient chart, we learned about alternative paths for patient care. Therefore, the research and resulting deliverables can show the top-of-mind path for patients as well as alternative paths that actually occur in the market.
Application of Findings:
In addition to the applications discussed, findings from these studies are often used to develop questionnaires for a specific business issue—using a strategic quantitative approach.