Know your audience: Why report generation is not a one-size-fits-all
You’ve built a body of evidence to demonstrate your product’s capabilities, value, potential and benefits. But just how technical should your report be?
When companies submit reports to payers or regulators, depth and detail matter, but these aren’t the only people innovators need to communicate with. Internal teams, including marketing and other departments, need to understand the value and potential of the product, as well as the company’s goals and objectives. They need to be able to communicate what their company’s product means to customers. That means when preparing a report or conducting a workshop about a product, companies need to adjust their messages and communication.
Internal or External?
We try to get our customers to define their audience from the outset, so when we start collecting data and preparing reports, we know with whom we are communicating. One recommendation we make is that communications with internal colleagues should ideally include some workshops as well as a clear, audience-specific, report. This allows different functions within the company to ask questions and to challenge the data shared. Ideally, workshops should be held early in the project.
Panaxea can prepare these for customers and ensure the material and responses are geared to the audience. We see this as similar to healthcare providers communicating with their patients to explain test results. You have some blood tests done, but the threshold number is often meaningless to the patient. So, the doctor or nurse will try to explain what the data means, and what steps you might need to take to address a health situation.
In our interactions with customers, we’re helping to answer questions such as: What does the data mean? Is it good or bad? And if it’s bad, how can the problem be fixed? For example, if a certain patient-relevant outcome (e.g. decrease in length of stay) is measured on a scale from -10 to +10, why is the figure +5? What does that mean? Is such an improvement acceptable in light of the resources required? If not, what is preventing it from being a better figure? And how can they further improve compared to where their competitors are? That is often what they would like to know.
Translating the data
Organisations often find the data on its own difficult to understand and interpret. To simplify the process, Panaxea uses different translation methodologies, depending on audience and situation. We might, for example, use sensitivity analysis, which allows us to play around with different variables in order to determine how much a variable contributes to the end result.
So, we can point out, for example, why you should put more energy into certain variables, and less into other variables, which can be very helpful for customers. For example, a new device may result in a significant decrease in length of stay at the general ward and not at the ICU where the device is first handed to patients; hence its use should be stimulated not only at the ICU but at both ICU and general ward.
One of the challenges with translating data is the information you gather can often raise more questions than it answers. That’s just the nature of the field we are in. As with the example of a variable between zero and 10 with an answer of five, the questions inevitably are: How has this been measured? Where has the evidence come from? Who was involved in the search for answers – which population groups, which specialists, etc? And what does this result mean for the company?
That last point is an important one. It’s all very well to prepare reports and share data. We believe it’s equally important that we take our data translation and reports further to help our customers make meaningful decisions about their projects and products.
For example, when we start collecting data about the safety of a product early in the lifecycle, we believe it’s important to ask questions about implementation and cost effectiveness. The safety data could all be positive, but it may turn out that the product is going to be so expensive that no or few payers will have the budget to pay for it. Going back to the customer and saying simply, “The data shows your product is safe,” would be disingenuous. We believe it is our responsibility to explore more and provide them with feedback regarding the actual market potential of their product early on. This can help the customer to decide whether they are going to continue to invest in a programme or move their investment and research elsewhere.
Sometimes the answers we gather aren’t what a customer hoped, but if we can prevent them from taking a wrong or costly direction, we are serving our customers in a more holistic way.
About the writer:
Hubertus “Bert” Vrijhoef, PhD, is CEO of Panaxea, which helps clients to make informed decisions about their healthcare innovations. Bert joined Panaxea from academia, where his research focussed on healthcare innovations to improve outcomes; integration and coordination of care; and skill mix and new professions in healthcare – all based on quantitative research, qualitative research and mixed research methods. In addition to his role as CEO at Panaxea, Bert continues his research into skill mix and task referral at Maastricht University Medical Center, where he leads the Research Team Task Referral. He is also chair of the Dutch Stroke Knowledge Network and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Care Coordination.