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Mixed methodologies research offers the best of both worlds: the in-depth, contextualized, and natural but more time-consuming insights of qualitative research coupled with the more-efficient but less rich or compelling predictive power of quantitative research.

Mixologists practice mixology and bartenders tend bar.   Mixologists evolve the field of bartending, creating innovative cocktails the world has never seen.  A bartender serves the drinks that customers order.

It is time for the mixologists in all of us to shake up market research. Questions rarely come in a box and rarely are contained to a single department.  Now is the time to mix up the methodological approach to help all the stakeholders answer their questions.

Mixed Methods.  What are they?  For some, it means blending primary and secondary research techniques.  Others leverage epidemiology to inform subsequent phases of research.  And others apply social media analytics to augment their data collection beyond traditional channels.

We don’t think the definition really matters.  At Cadence, we like mixing methods to take the best advantage of research techniques across marketing, clinical development, business analytics and forecasting.  There’s no question that traditional concept testing using in-depth personal interviews provides deep qualitative input that is invaluable to answering key questions.   After all, sometimes all you really need from the bartender is a martini.

But, let’s say our client really wants to know if the concept’s underlying technology meets an unmet need in a highly specialized facet of the oncology market.  And, if so, what is the market size and how would the technology be positioned?  And what would the forecast look like at various price points for a product used in this position?   It turns out our client didn’t really want a simple drink, but never imagined the perfection of a Melograno made with orange infused vodka, orange liqueur, fresh pomegranate and fresh pineapple.   To truly be of service to this client, we need to find our inner mixologist and bring a fresh, sophisticated approach.

On March 27, 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that ASCO announced a new clinical tool in development called CancerLinQ.  This is a database that essentially converts all cancer patients in the U.S. to clinical study participants.  The system collects data that doctors record in a patient’s files, such as age, gender, medications and other illnesses, along with the patient’s diagnosis, treatment and, eventually, date of death.   Doctors tap the database for help in developing treatments for other patients.

Our methodology for this client can borrow analytic techniques from epidemiologist and use this new data set to mix it up:

  1. Quantify the market:  Connect to the CancerLinQ database to query real patient data
  2. Assess the technology on-line:  Specialists are too far-flung for in-person research and are too busy for telephone interviews.  Undertake a technology assessment using a longitudinal on-line focus group that allows users to log in and out for short periods of time over several days.  You actually get broader and deeper data at a lower cost.
  3. Leverage social media analytics to determine what is being said in the millions of conversations happening in patient groups, physician networks, Twitter YouTube, Facebook; the possibilities are endless.  Algorithms being employed to look at back-of-mind sentiment and attitudinal behavior are as powerful and complex as those employed by the FBI.
  4. Build a model:  Feed the market size and adoption data into a forecasting model using scenarios for various price points. You can use a choice model if you are after a dynamic assessment or start with a univariate test if you have discrete price points and a fixed product profile.

So, in the end, we mixed a database query, a technology assessment using an on-line longitudinal format, and a dynamic forecast to answer what started out as a “concept assessment” question.  Dig a little deeper, mix up the methods, and deliver truly impactful research.

— Sherry Danese


Author Cadence Team

Cadence Research & Consulting is a healthcare communications, research and consulting firm that supports its clients through scientific content development and meeting planning, market research and strategy work. Leveraging a unique business model, Cadence offers a collaborative, high touch, expertise based approach for all its clients. Cadence clients span a broad array of companies within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and health IT segments.

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