During a pandemic, it’s important to continue with healthcare market research to keep sight of the advances the industry needs to make in the prevention and treatment of many other diseases. We still need advances in cancer, cardiology, and rare diseases. We still need to listen to patients who are not only suffering from COVID-19, but who are suffering from diabetes, hemophilia and neurological conditions. We still need to engage with oncologists, hematologists and ophthalmologists. But we need to be mindful how we do this. We need to show relevance when asking people for their time. And we need to show understanding for the unusual situation many doctors and patients are currently finding themselves in because of the pandemic.
We recently wanted to engage with some key opinion leaders (KOLs) from oncology to understand their thoughts about liquid biopsies for the early detection of cancer. We contacted 13 lung cancer thought leaders to ask if they had time to take part in some research. Within a few hours we were pleased that we’d booked research sessions with three respondees.
Whilst COVID-19 is consuming our thoughts, we’re still keen to see where the liquid biopsies landscape is headed. The quick responses from the lung cancer specialists showed us that – despite the pandemic – physicians are also still passionate to take part in the discussions involving future advances for their therapy areas.
Eager to engage
Interestingly, two of the three physicians/KOLs we spoke to said how nice it was to have an ‘ordinary’ research discussion again about their specialist therapy area. This is extraordinary given the circumstances in which these physicians are working: their resources – human and otherwise – are being impacted, even commandeered to help fight the pandemic. One told the harrowing tale of losing seven of his seven-hundred strong medical team to the virus. Still, he wanted to fight on, not just against the virus but against cancer.
Unable to engage
Unsurprisingly, some of the other physicians declined, stating that ordinarily they would like to take part, but they are currently being pulled away from their own therapy areas to help the fight against COVID. This is a situation we understand and respect.
Press ahead with research for future advances, but with compassion
Our conclusion, which we thought worth sharing, is that so long as the topic is relevant, clinical thought leaders want to engage in market research that carries their specific area of scientific endeavour forward. They can see a future after the current pandemic, and so can we.
However, the healthcare system is really pulling together now; there is a single-minded goal to contain the pandemic. We cannot know who will and can engage and who cannot. It is for HCPs to decide if they can spare the time to get involved. Our approach: reach out cautiously, give them time to respond, work to their timetables, and if they don’t reply, don’t chase.