Blog Post | November 2019

To Thine Own Selfie Be True

By Alice Morgan, VP Qualitative

dQ&A has been conducting qualitative research studies for a little over three years. In that time, we have interviewed about 1,000 people with diabetes, either via in-person focus groups/interviews, web/phone-based interviews, or online/mobile communities.  (We have also interviewed many health care professionals, but that is a topic for another time.)

There is a lot of concern in the world of qualitative research about behavioral economics and various “primes,” or barriers, that prevent people from telling you what they really think. And for good reason. Many reactions/decisions/motivations are derived intuitively. People don’t always know why they think what they think. But we ask them anyway. As a result, people frequently provide a rational answer in a rational setting – i.e. a focus group facility – that isn’t necessarily their “truth.”

For this reason, when I step back and think about what generated the most authentic insights across a thousand people with diabetes, I remember the selfie videos.

Selfie videos are recorded at home, when it’s convenient. There is no interviewer. There are no other participants. There is no reason to filter what is said or thought. Sometimes we ask specific questions, sometimes not so much. We frequently ask people to record a “diabetes diary.” That’s when we find out that they ate too much. Or that they had a great diabetes day. Or that, despite doing everything right, they didn’t.

Self-ethnography has allowed us to capture:

  • The woman in her 60s who was about to go for a bike ride (she recorded the video wearing her bike helmet) who was super annoyed that her sensor was going to expire during her ride and thought an implantable sensor would prevent the problem.
  • The college student who set several alarms every night to check his blood sugar because he was so worried about going low, despite risking waking up his dorm mates.
  • The caregiver who was fuming – truly furious! – that her partner flat-out admitted to her that he isn’t willing to do much of anything to achieve better control of his diabetes.
  • The looper who was ebullient about the extra time she “got back” to enjoy life because she no longer has to spend so much time managing her blood sugars.

I don’t mean to discount the value of in-person research. When the objectives involve evaluating stimuli – be it a device, marketing/communication materials, or an app – in-person research is the way to go. But quite a bit of diabetes research involves trying to identify pain points, barriers, and burdens in order to make life better.

And this is quite often best accomplished by simply getting out of the way.

To see the power of selfie videos for yourself, please watch the video below. It features several members of our community describing the daily challenges they face with regard to food and diabetes management. You can read more about this piece of research here.

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