Vantage Point: Payers—the "experts" in healthcare research

BJ Kirschner
BJ Kirschner

Who are the “experts” in healthcare research in 2014? This question keeps popping up in my qualitative research needs. You, too?

It seems more and more that the answer is payers— those top-level people at MCOs, IDNs, even governments, who have decision-making abilities that are the focus of market research. No longer are we just discussing packaging or injection ease. Clients want to know about reimbursement and formulary issues from the payment side. The payers do not just offer their opinions as representatives of their organizations—their decisions affect physicians and patients.

The challenge in recruiting payers is two-fold. First, find them. Second, use them.

They are not easily found in online directories. Some are not legally allowed to do research; some require incentives beyond budgets. In-person methodologies do not work.

It is the ability to conquer both of those hurdles that is separating suppliers into “go to them” and “not for this project” in the minds of the clients. No one wants to be in the latter category because the projects typically come with physicians and/or patients as well.

Access to payers is about knowledge, about understanding what they do in their jobs. Payer information does not remain constant. For instance, most payers dread election time, because that means changes.

What you need to know to engage them loyally is as precise as knowing which kinds of surgeons operate on which body parts. Multiply this by types of plans, governmental participation and then go country by country, and it's a wonderful puzzle.

The information to be learned is fascinating and daunting, but those who work to have it are invaluable to those seeking to use it.

Bj Kirschner is director, research operations, US, at All Global.

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