When it comes to qualitative research impact, it takes the combination of innovative methods and skillful talent to unlock breakthrough insights. This is especially the case in research studies such as Drivers & Barriers, where it’s often not easy to deliver true breakthrough insights that go beyond the typical functional, financial, and logistic aspects.

Our research team at Shapiro+Raj has successfully leveraged our proprietary S+R Guided Deliberations™ as well as S+R WithinSights™, a suite of innovative qualitative methods, to crack the ‘Drivers and Barriers’ code in a recent project for a client team, who looked to identify opportunities to maximize uptake for their newly launched product in the Hyperkalemia space.

Despite certain competitive advantages, after more than a year of launch in the Hyperkalemia space, our client’s product uptake was not as strong as expected, even though the current standard-of-care (SoC) was enjoying increased usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was critical to deeply understand the nuanced drivers of the loyalty to SoC, identify the sticking points and tipping points to prescribe one treatment over the other, in order to pinpoint levers needed to break habits and increase consideration of the product for the appropriate patient types.

Unlike many other therapeutic areas, there is a very diverse set of physician specialties involved in treating Hyperkalemia. Depending on several factors, hyperkalemia treaters can be primary care physicians, nephrologists, ER physicians, hospitalists, or cardiologists. Even within any given specialty, different physicians may well make different treatment decisions despite seeing the same set of data.

An immersive and iterative approach with two qualitative research phases was purposefully designed to address specific business needs: 1) Leverage S+R Guided Deliberations™, an innovative method developed in partnership with University of Chicago Law School, to gain insights on what drive the usage of SoC vs. the newly launched product, with mixed groups of SoC loyalists and new product users; 2) Deploy S+R WithinSights™ in-depth interviews conducted by skilled moderators to uncover how best to breakthrough entrenched habits and drive uptake.

The first key question was: how do you find the core idea with such a diverse group? Phase 1 of the research was designed to crack this. S+R Guided Deliberations™, the core method in this phase, is a unique methodology designed to reveal the biases coloring and shaping each individuals’ viewpoint and then having them work together to align behind one core insight that inspires a unanimous verdict. It is grounded on the breakthrough work coming from our partnership with the University of Chicago Law School, drawing from parallels in the jury room where jury members make decisions that are true to their sensibilities yet in agreement with the rest of the group. S+R’s Guided Deliberations™ methodology ensures you go beyond the clinical and understand the multitude of other factors that drive prescription behavior. While we could hypothesize multiple drivers and barriers to share, this methodology ensures you not only have clear prioritization of action but know how to talk about that action in a meaningful way – in the language that resonates with your customers.

After finding this ‘winning verdict’ – the core idea that works across the diverse set of physician specialties, the other question was, how best to breakthrough to increase consideration for the newly launched product. In phase 2 of the research, leveraging S+R WithinSights™, carefully curated projective exercises were deployed to uncover how best to drive success in the real world. An example of such exercises was the ‘Observation Room,’ where our moderator presented the physician in the in-depth interview with a ‘case load’ including randomly assigned hyperkalemia, complete with video clips depicting patients explaining their symptoms, treatment history, impact on daily life, etc. The physician then would prioritize cases and develop their treatment approach on the spot – showcasing the heuristics at play and what drive selection of one treatment option over the other in hyperkalemia.

Throughout the project, extensive collaboration internally amongst our credentialed social scientists and seasoned moderators, as well as externally with the cross-functional team on the client side, ensured the most impactful insights were captured, and the resulting strategic recommendations provided compelling ways to frame their messages, inject “nudges” into their creative and customer experience, as well as a strategic platform that works effectively across this very diverse set of physician specialties.

This research was able to achieve what many brands are looking to achieve in healthcare: know how to drive market share in the absence of strong clinical differentiation. Through this carefully crafted qualitative approach that tapped into both system 1 and system 2 thinking, we provided our client team with clarity into the heuristics at play, as well as prioritization for the most important ones to either ‘feed’ or ‘fight’, with clear implications for messaging optimization to help increase the odds of success.

This research also provided the necessary evidence to justify increasing sales force efforts, as it was discovered that the competitor was having huge impact through simply staying top of mind with customers. In fact, it provided direction on what type of conversations, narrower topics, for sales representatives to focus on with customers. Similarly, the insights ignited the need for a new Product Sampling strategy, as physicians were hesitating to trial, due to not receiving enough samples. These insights and actions resulted in measurable improvement in market share, after a slower than expected launch.

This is just one example why we have been voted in the annual GRIT report as a top-10 strategic insights consultancy and ranked #2 for qualitative excellence. If you would like to hear more about how we can spark transformative outcomes for you, please reach out to us at [email protected].