What is ethnographic research?

Ethnography is a research method that can help us gain deep insights into the context of users' daily lives. In a new video, CMR Research Director Alper Hulusi discusses its value to medical device manufacturers.

Ethnographic research – the practice of observing users in their real-world setting – is gaining traction in the field of market research. Thanks to the advanced data-capture facilities of devices such as the smartphone, GoPro, Polaroid Cube and Narrative Clip, we are able to become more fully immersed with patients’ lives.

As a result, we gain a deeper understanding into how patients engage with medical devices, and the impact such devices have on therapy adherence and overall lifestyle. This in turn has the potential to provide more meaningful  insights that medical device manufacturers can use to benefit patients and healthcare professionals.

Ethnography and the patient experience

Take a COPD patient for example. Using ethnographic techniques, we can capture how that patient uses their inhaler; the steps they take to prepare their dose; plus detailed insights concerning the inter-relationship between their therapy, device and lifestyle. With this glimpse into patients’ lives, we uncover unmet needs and view their stumbling blocks and ascertain the nuggets of information needed to improve the overall patient experience.

For the medical device manufacturer, these daily observations may translate into actions that influence a product’s design, usability and go-to-market strategy. Healthcare professionals can also contribute to ethnographic research: their in-the-moment observations can provide valuable insights on patients’ unmet needs, their prescription behavior and recommendations for improvement, to name just a few benefits.

Ethnography and CMR methodology

Of course, ethnography creates a wealth of information that must be carefully managed and analysed in order to create the most useful and actionable insights. And that’s where the skill of the market researcher comes in. Researchers like those at Creative Medical Research utilise ethnographic research to uncover complex needs, behaviours and motivations which in turn can translate into better outcomes for patients.

Video - What is Ethnography?

In this one-minute video, Research Director for Creative Medical Research, Alper Hulusi, takes a personal look at ethnography. Watch it to learn:

  • Why market researchers use ethnography
  • The value of ethnography to medical device manufacturers
  • The role of technology and ethnography

Ethnography is just one research method utilised by Creative Medical Research. To learn more about our approach, take a look at our work and case studies.