Over the last year or so, Vision Service Plan (“VSP”) has fanned out across California and elsewhere to help the local panel doctor (“doctor”) connect with its upper management. Social media and web sessions broadened even further their reach.
At first glance, doctors welcomed the sessions both as a way to express their own frustration with the business practices and strategy and processes of VSP, but also to understand those intricacies. In some ways, doctors have felt unsuccessful because VSP is seemingly plunging head long into their strategy regardless of doctor feedback. On the other hand, is VSP itself gaining anything from these sessions?
Any marketing or social science researcher would be eager to study these sessions for what is called “qualitative” research. This kind of research is not unlike the market focus group where a group of subjects are brought together to get their feedback on products or services based upon a structured presentation. The similarities between the town hall meetings and a focus group are striking.
One of the fallacies of any business strategy is inadequate knowledge of the buyer, in this case, the doctor. VSP sent out a survey just before and just after the town hall meetings to gauge the attitudes of their attendees to the content of those meetings. There are fallacies, though, in VSP’s method.
First, the process appears much like a pretest-test-post test approach to research. The problem here is that the survey instrument used may not expose sufficient information to answer a research question that really was relevant to the doctors. Posing a question that is only “is VSP working in the best interest” or “best at referring patients to a private practice” does not gauge significantly the issues that bother doctors. It only measures what hopefully is a positive benefit of VSP.
Second, the town hall meeting poll might not achieve a sample size sufficient in size to make generalities or conclusions about the VSP doctor population as a whole. The conclusion would only be relevant to the group polled, not those who were not polled or attended.
Lastly, if the town hall were to be useful, a qualitative research method might be better. This kind of research measures the content of the responses and will help drive quantitative research to better make strategy. Because the town hall meeting seems like a very large focus group, the reliability of these findings might be more beneficial than the supposed poll of satisfaction.
In summary, from a statistical stand point, VSP stands to gain insight from an data set (the doctors in the town hall meetings). I just hope that upper management has included research expertise to help them support their action.