“The best research you can do is talk to people”

Terry Pratchett

Market research has been called “a mission-critical strategic priority” for the healthcare industry.1 This has never been more keenly felt than at the present moment. The year that was projected to be “the year of the consumer” by Deloitte also saw the rise of the first truly global pandemic of the information era in COVID-19.2 The result? The healthcare market — set to grow by $808 billion in the US alone in 2021 — has been thrust into the public eye like never before.

If the consumer is now king in healthcare market research, then focus groups are the way to the throne. Relatively simple to organize, cost-effective to run, and delivering vital qualitative data directly from consumers, it is little wonder that focus groups are becoming increasingly popular in the healthcare space. That said, focus groups are not unimpeachable as a qualitative data collection tool and there are some drawbacks to the focus group model. Luckily, focus group transcription can help to mitigate these.

Language Challenges in a Focus Group Setting

Focus groups are reliant on specially-trained interviewers, moderators, or facilitators to direct the discussion and produce accurate results. These individuals are expected to both lead the discussion whilst also interpreting the information that they are receiving from participants. Depending on the number of participants and the complexity of the discussion, this could easily become overwhelming for the moderator, potentially compromising the data collection process.

There is also the problem of language to consider. According to Ethnologue, there are more than 7,000 languages spoken worldwide. And while this number is in constant flex, ignoring the preferred languages that consumers speak can become a costly ordeal.

Data Source: Ethnologue

Linguistic Diversity in the United States

When we look at the United States alone, census data has shown that the US population has never been more ethnically diverse than it is today, and it will only continue to further diversify in the coming years. This can be a boon both for healthcare researchers wanting to explore the opinions of particular ethnic groups as well as for those who wish to gather together a varied set of different participants and viewpoints. However, it also carries its fair share of challenges, particularly in terms of communication.

Almost 22 percent of the US population reportedly speaks a language other than English at home. In fact, in some states (such as California and Texas), this number is closer to 50%. It’s highly likely, then, that your focus groups will contain participants for whom English is not their mother tongue, whether by design or by luck of the draw. And as Brookings puts it, as the US becomes ever more ethnically diverse, “more attention needs to be given to the needs and opportunities for America’s highly diverse younger generations.”3 It is no exaggeration to say that these populations will play a major role in shaping the future of the healthcare industry.

The Challenges of Cross-lingual Focus Groups

To address the challenges of cross-lingual focus groups, researchers will typically employ one of two methods. One of these involves the use of an interpreter who will translate responses to the moderator in real-time as the conversation unfolds. Another approach is to bring in a bilingual facilitator to direct the discussion in the participants’ mother tongue and produce a written translation in the research language. However, both of these approaches have their drawbacks. 

Filtering focus group data through a single source leaves researchers wholly dependent on these individuals’ competence and lack of bias to ensure the integrity of the translated data. Beyond simply understanding their language, focus group leads must also be able to comprehend the participants’ social context and cultural background to properly interpret the collected data. A failure in either of these areas could threaten the viability of focus group data and, consequently, the study as a whole.

While this might seem obvious, these risks are perhaps not being considered as much as they should be. A paper published in the International Journal of Nursing found that those engaging in multilingual qualitative studies “do not consistently account for the effects of translators on qualitative data.”4 Of 40 such studies analyzed, 34 failed to acknowledge that language barriers between researcher and participant may adversely impact the findings of the study.

Benefits to Market Research with Transcription Services

Focus group transcription is one way to ensure the validity of your healthcare market research data. Transcribing your focus group discussions allows your moderators to concentrate squarely on facilitating the conversation, removing the need to process too much information in the moment which can often lead to losing out on important findings. 

Having a written record of proceedings helps market researchers to precisely pinpoint the main factors that affect consumer decision-making. Focus group transcription, therefore, allows for greater comprehension of the patient experience, making it easier to identify potential service gaps and targeted marketing opportunities. Focus group transcription also neatly solves the problems posed by cross-lingual focus groups. Having your focus group transcribed in the language which was spoken is the best way to ensure that your data is accurately recorded and free of bias.

Make Global Lingo Your First Choice for Quality Focus Group Transcription

When it comes to focus group transcription, Global Lingo stands out from the crowd in a couple of unique ways. Our extensive resource base contains over 6,000 freelance linguists working in more than 150 languages. This includes subject matter experts who are well-versed in complex medical terminology. We can match you with the right medical and healthcare transcribers for the job, whatever the language, accent, or cultural background of your focus group participants.

Global Lingo also acts as a one-stop-shop for related language services beyond transcription. Need a multilingual focus group transcript translated into the research language or an interpreter to assist with focus group facilitation? Global Lingo’s got you covered.

Unmatched Flexibility

We offer unmatched flexibility when it comes to the style of your transcripts. Our verbatim transcripts capture every utterance that is made on your recording including false starts, stutters and colloquial slang, giving you complete confidence in the accuracy of your data. If you are looking for something a little neater, our tidied-up transcripts get straight to the heart of the matter, conveying the salient points whilst omitting redundant speech.

Fully Certified

Our ISO 9001 certification means that we employ a three-stage quality assurance process on all our transcripts. Following the initial transcription stage, transcripts are passed to a professional editor for secondary checks before undergoing a final QA at the point of delivery. With each project passing at least three pairs of eyes, any potential bias from entrusting your work to a single interpreter or bilingual moderator is eliminated. We are also ISO 27001 certified, so you can be secure in the knowledge that your data will be treated in accordance with strict information security standards.

A Trusted Leader in Transcription Services

Having operated in the industry for over ten years and with thousands of hours of focus groups transcribed, Global Lingo has earned its reputation as a trusted leader in transcription services. This is simply what we do, day in, day out. But don’t just take our word for it – visit our website to see how we were able to add exceptional value for our clients with our professional focus group transcription services.

Reach out to us today for a focus group transcription quote and see how Global Lingo can add value to your next healthcare market research.




1Steber, C. (n.d.). Why Market Research is a Must for the Healthcare Industry. Top Market Research Agency in St Louis. https://www.cfrinc.net/cfrblog/market-research-is-a-must-for-the-healthcare-industry.

22020 US and Global Health Care Outlook. Deloitte United States. (2020, June 24). https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/life-sciences-and-health-care/articles/global-health-care-sector-outlook.html.

3 Frey, W. H. (2020, July 16). The nation is diversifying even faster than predicted, according to new census data. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/research/new-census-data-shows-the-nation-is-diversifying-even-faster-than-predicted/.

4 A;, Squires. “Methodological Challenges in Cross-Language Qualitative Research: a Research Review.” International Journal of Nursing Studies, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18789799/

In addition to:

Healthcare statistics for 2021: Policy Advice. PolicyAdvice. (2021, February 14). https://policyadvice.net/insurance/insights/healthcare-statistics/#:~:text=In%202018%2C%20this%20sector%20was,according%20to%20the%20latest%20estimates.

“What Continents Have the Most Indigenous Languages?” Ethnologue, 23 Feb. 2021, www.ethnologue.com/guides/continents-most-indigenous-languages

Bureau, U. S. C. (n.d.). Why We Ask About…Language Spoken at Home. Why We Ask About…Language Spoken at Home | American Community Survey | US Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/acs/www/about/why-we-ask-each-question/language/.

Published by Statista Research Department, & 20, J. (2021, January 20). Share of U.S. population speaking a language other than English at home by state 2019. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/312940/share-of-us-population-speaking-a-language-other-than-english-at-home-by-state/.

Journals.sagepub.com. 2021. [online] Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1609406915621419> [Accessed 21 May 2021].

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