Too many online patient communities are created without the right preliminary research. The result? A ghost town.
You can avoid that disaster by interviewing 20-30 potential members of the community first. In the interviews you have three important objectives:
- Identify competition.
- Find out what patients’ online interests and habits are.
- Determine who could be founding members of your community.
Who, then, should you interview? Those patients who fit squarely within the patient profile you’re targeting for your online community.
Perhaps you have a support group already meeting around your community concept. Or you have patients who are actively commenting on your hospital Facebook page. Or simply make a list of 20-30 current or former patients.
You can conduct the interviews on the phone or face to face. Another option is to conduct a patient focus group, but this should be in addition to the individual interviews, not instead.
The introduction to the interview
Suppose you’re considering a bariatric surgery community. Here’s how you might introduce the concept in the interview.
Example opening: We are considering starting an online community for weight loss surgery patients. It would be a private site that you could log into. There you could have conversations with other people preparing for their weight loss surgery, or who have had the surgery. Share advice. Give support. Ask questions. Just say how you’re feeling. Or what you’re struggling with. You could also get current, accurate information about procedures, diet, exercise, change, side effects.
Here are 20 questions to ask
Are you aware of online communities like this?
Do you belong to any? (Ask follow-up questions. It’s important to find out if there are existing online communities that already meet your patients’ needs. )
Does this sound like a community you would want to be a part of? Why? Or why not? (If no, dig deeper to discovery why. This is valuable information!)
What other options would you like to see in this community?
What would your dream community look like?
What would an outstanding community have?
What would you hope to gain from this community?
What are your biggest problems/challenges you face today?
What do you think are the biggest concerns/worries that other patients like you have?
Why would you go online to the community? Help others? Receive support? Get information? Connect with people like you? Ask questions? See what other people are talking about? Make new friends?
Do you know anyone else who would want to belong to this community?
What would keep you coming back to the community?
How many times a week do you think you would visit this community?
How much time would you spend in a community like this?
When in your daily routine would you make time for it?
Who do you think would make the perfect members of this community?
What kind of patients should not belong to this community?
If you were to ask a question to this community today, what would it be?
Would you find this community helpful in your life?
Would you consider being a founding member of this community?