In my job I’m inundated with data. How many doctors use the Internet? (all of them) How many have mobile phones? (all of them) How many have Smartphones? (most of them)…
But when interpreting all of those numbers from all of those sources I continually reference back to my many entertaining qualitative interviews. I’ve conducted at least 50 interviews with physicians over the past four years ranging from the overworked family doctor to the rare disease specialist (who is also overworked, by the way).
Conducting “inherent value” tests (one of my favorites) with these folks is incredibly insightful because they have all the traits that make for productive, and entertaining, research activities. They are:
- Smart: you simply don’t get through medical school and into practice if you’re not. Don’t confuse this with “knowledgeable” about Internet technologies or your internal corporate structure.
- Impatient: when you see 200+ patients per week you simply don’t have time to waste. In the world of 20%+ pay cuts in Medicare and intense scrutiny from the insurance companies you need volume if you want to keep your practice afloat.
- Articulate: the amount of material that the average doctor reads is enormous. The continual learning required to keep up with a specialty demands a lot of ongoing research. A lot of that starts with Google, but the end result is deep, technical information that has to be read carefully and critically to be absorbed.
- Colorful: most doctors (male or female) are in control in their environments and they don’t typically feel that they need to answer to very many people (I’m sure spouses are a separate matter). Because of this they will use whatever language they want when telling you what they think of your website / ad / microsite / app.
All of this adds up to some of the most fun a researcher can have in the field, as long as you have a thick skin.
The qualitative interview will really surprise you when looking at a digital property of any sort because nothing can really prepare you for the critical scorn that a doctor can apply when provoked. Likewise, they will provide thoughtful praise when the site meets their needs.
So, data is great, and important for the full picture, but the qualitative interview should not be overlooked to get that “ground truth” from the audience you really want to support.