How Qualitative Research Can Help Uncover Member Needs 

In 2018, the American Society of Anesthesiologists set out to paint a full picture of its members by conducting a series of interviews with a wide array of member cohorts. As a result, ASA has introduced new programming and benefits to better support members throughout their careers. 

If you want to know what your members need, a good starting point is to ask them. But once you have their feedback, how can you bring all the pieces together to build a clear picture and determine next steps? 

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has been working on this puzzle through its ongoing Lifecycle and Ecosystem research project.  

“We started this research in 2018 to look at the full life of an anesthesiologist,” said Gonzo Schexnayder, CAE, director of member and product experience at ASA. “The goal is to get a better sense of how to support our members through each phase of the lifecycle, from the moment they decide to pursue the career through retirement.” 

With five years under the belt, ASA has already used some of the findings to make changes to departments and programs to better support their members. 

Gathering Puzzle Pieces 

The first step in figuring out a puzzle is to identify the pieces. ASA conducted in-house workshops to determine all its member cohorts from medical school through retirement, as well as groups outside the profession that influence the ecosystem like healthcare executives and anesthesiology assistants.  

ASA began its research with a cohort that the association had been able to reach but didn’t directly talk to—anesthesiology residents. To understand this group’s needs, ASA conducted interviews and created a journey map to analyze each year of an anesthesiology residency program.  

“Through this work, we found that members in each year of the program had unique needs and stressors,” Schexnayder said. “That allowed us to provide focused and relevant communication to support them.”  

Using the research, ASA launched a residency engagement department in early 2020, along with its Program Directors Advisory Group in November 2020, which guides ASA on how to reach residents.  

“The more we can engage groups in the beginning of their relationship with ASA and show them the value we add to their careers, the more likely they’ll become lifelong members,” Schexnayder said. 

Making Changes 

In addition to residents, ASA has conducted research into early-career anesthesiologists, medical students, lapsed members, and members in independently managed practices over the past few years. The research helped ASA design resources and programming that cater to these members’ specific needs. 

For example, the interviews with early-career members, residents, and medical students have helped inform the benefits that ASA provides in its new Early-Career Membership Program.  

In addition, the association has developed recruitment campaigns around the issues that lapsed members identified and has put forward product and services proposals based on the research into independently managed practices.  

“The interviews help us understand the nuances of what our member cohorts need,” Schexnayder said. “Through a quantitative study, we may learn that our members are stressed. Qualitative research can help us understand the source of that stress. We make impactful changes by combining the data from both types of research.” 

Feeling Heard 

Schexnayder has found that research has been fruitful not only for ASA but also for the participating members. The hour-long interviews provide a space where members can sit down, talk through problems, and know their association is listening.  

“When we give them the space to share what’s on their minds and understand their stressors and needs, we build a stronger bond with them,” Schexnayder said. “At the end of the day, we want them to see their association as an ally in all facets of their daily lives. This research is an opportunity to be that ally.”  

Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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