Creating a Better Research Model Through Recruiting Partnerships

Rob Ramirez, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, discusses creating a better research model through recruiting partnerships.

Over the past several years, there has been an industry focus on identifying ideas that will provide ‘disruptive change’. When it comes to healthcare market research, the concept of disruptive change has typically led to discussions around tweaking or retooling research methodologies. More recently, the move to change the partnership dynamic between end-clients, insight firms and recruiting companies is driving significant benefits to research stakeholders. Specifically, rethinking the procurement process to bring recruiting partners to the table earlier in the process is leading to what stakeholders feel is an improved research model. It is the efficiencies that this model can achieve that bring us nearer to the ‘Holy Grail’ of paradigms; faster moving projects, reduced costs, and increased quality of projects.

Historically, market researchers have commissioned all pieces of a project directly with a firm specializing in providing insights. In a qualitative project this would include project management, instrument development (screeners, discussion guides), recruiting, facility, and reporting. While a small subset of insight firms have the capability of recruiting and/or supplying facility services, the vast majority out-source these functions. This process creates an additional layer that demands more time, rarely adds value and can substantially increase costs. These out-sourced services typically account for 30-40% of the total project cost.

Disaggregating the Research Process

The biggest driver behind the trend to bring data collection partners closer to the client has been better known as data disaggregation. Disaggregation is the process of separating the various data collection components of research including recruitment, facility procurement and project management

services from the questioning and Insight generation. This change in process has proven successful by providing earlier collaboration, cost savings, improved client satisfaction and, most importantly, synergistic partnerships.

Is it a Win-Win-Win?
Who gets what in this new model?

1. The Insight Partner
One of the outsourced services that keep Insight Partners awake at night is recruitment. The challenge to deliver the target sample the client needs at short notice. The extra costs outside of budget that might be incurred as the timing or low-incidence becomes apparent as do ‘professional’ respondents. Solutions to these challenges are mostly out of control of the Insight Provider but if recruitment is not successful, the results can seriously damage the Insight Provider. The administration and logistics of multi market facility hire can be a time consuming task for the Insight provider for which there is little financial return. This model allows the Insight partner to focus and be judged on its specialties of research solutions, analysis and providing meaningful report

2. The Data Collection and Research Facility Provider
Prior to the strengthened partnership between end client companies and recruiting partners, it was a much riskier proposition for the recruiting company to establish panels that catered for particular end client needs. Without a guarantee that projects would be commissioned, the ROI on panel development is a risky venture. However, the change in strategy by end clients has changed this dynamic. For example, some pharmaceutical companies partnering directly with our organization treat Schlesinger Associates as the data collection agency of record. Given that research managers typically develop research plans at least 12 months into the future; this is a pivotal to recruitment success in allowing advance recruitment planning and investment. While various factors will drive the choice of an insight firm, the underlying data collection needs (i.e. specific respondent types to interview or survey) are unlikely to change much once the plan is developed.

As such, the recruiting firm can partner with the Pharmaceutical company to develop specialized panels with the strong assurance that projects will be coming down the pike and utilize these assets. This is truly emphasized when it comes to new, or hard to reach respondents which require specific investment. Two specific examples at Schlesinger Associates being of advance panel planning at end-client request are new orphan areas and the new payer landscape driven by legislation.

The benefit of inviting recruiting experts to become involved in a project at the design phase allows the recruitment company to advice on optimum timing, cultural implications, share previous experiences, provide ideas for hybrid solutions, pull in additional partnerships if needed and ensure budgeting is realistic. All which allow the recruitment company to keep costs down through good planning and contribute to more successful outcomes for a study.

3. The Client
There are many benefits for end clients that include cost savings, successful projects and the ability to integrate data across projects. The cost savings can be significant as the organization is taking advantage of its aggregated spend on data collection. Of course, the cost savings are only important if the research projects are going well. We have seen a significant increase for end client satisfaction scores upon implementation of these partnerships. These scores stay high and overall value metrics achieve levels that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. A single source data collection partner makes data integration a possibility. The ability to follow patients longitudinally across a treatment pathway or having access to mine all data across studies has been a key driver on the ability for the partnership to drive value.

Manufacturers and Insight partners are also beginning to recognize that they need to address the real threat that is the decline in the willingness of their customers to participate in research and therefore finding targets becoming increasingly challenging and costly. There is no questioning that rare and orphan diseases are a focus area for healthcare research and lower incidence populations relating to them can present additional recruiting challenges. When you overlay the current procurement structure that typically doesn’t involve direct or long-term interaction between research teams and recruiting partners, it becomes self-evident that model is unsustainable.

Allowing recruitment companies to take a more strategic and collaborative approach to fulfilling the long-term recruitment needs is already proving to help to counter these threats and challenges to ensure that clients and can continue have powerful conversations with their audiences.

Breaking apart insight generation from recruiting will ultimately lead to strengthened partnerships between end clients, insight providers and recruiting partners. I believe that the opportunity for more minds contributing in areas of core competences, from different perspectives and from early on in research planning is critical to better research performance in our rapidly-evolving research environment.



This content was originally published by Schlesinger Associates New Jersey . Visit their website at

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