Our Market Research

What's the definition of "health" in the mind of the emerging consumer? In our research, this is derived from two important areas: social impact and the changing patient-provider relationship.


Social impact factors are influencing consumer behavior across all sectors, including health care. In early 2010, our team began conducting intensive research to discover the real-world effects of social impact activities on the contemporary consumer lifestyle, shaped in large part by the millennial generation. For millennials, a well-rounded, healthy life is a priority.

Our research is summarized in a book, Do Good, Feel Better, published in January 2017.

We launched the study with a thorough review of existing literature connecting philanthropy to positive psychology and overall wellbeing. This secondary research included thoroughly reviewing hundreds of books, websites, journals, blogs, and articles to observe the types of health, wellness, and community messages that resonate best with the next generation. Our team also uncovered dozens of studies linking philanthropic behavior to improved physical health. For example, research suggests activities such as volunteering and giving can lead to a longer life, lower blood pressure, and better pain management. Our team’s multi-year inquiry also included primary consumer research through conducting hundreds of interviews and surveys, gathering data through online media platforms, and learning from experiments conducted in real-life situations with consumers. 

Over the course of the research, our team observed and documented the contemporary point of view that a healthy, philanthropic lifestyle embraces the full range of social impact behaviors:

  1. Caring about health and wellness

  2. Giving to charities

  3. Volunteering at a charity

  4. Serving on a charity’s board of directors

  5. Purchasing products that support a cause

  6. Recycling and respecting a sustainable environment

  7. Donating items of food and clothing

  8. Marketing a favorite charity

  9. Sharing with family and friends in need

  10. Celebrating at community events

Our study revealed two important conclusions:

1. Two-way connections reinforce the interplay between health and social impact behaviors

The synergy between social impact activities and wellness works both ways. Consider two consumer perspectives:

  • “I can’t take care of other people if I’m not feeling good myself.”

A consumer’s ability to care for her own health is a key factor in her ability to participate in a wide range of social impact activities in the community, including giving to charities, volunteering, celebrating at community events, and serving on boards.

  • “Doing good for others makes me feel great.”

Emerging research continues to indicate that engaging in social impact activities correlates to better overall mental and physical health.  

2. Social impact activities are a driver of consumer engagement in the healthcare market

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the connection between good health and social impact activities may signal an expanded definition of "health" in the minds of consumers, especially millennials. A real-world dialogue about social impact wellness itself creates fertile ground for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to engage the hearts and minds of consumers, gather valuable data, and as a result, leverage consumer behavior to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes. 

This hypothesis is supported by the research process itself: Over the course of the study, an average of 92% of survey participants said that taking a survey about their social impact activities made them feel better about themselves and the good they were doing for others. This means social impact is a real-world "sticky factor" to improve the success of data collection efforts.  

the changing patient-provider relationship AND THE Path to Identifying the Emerging Health Care Generation

Conducting research on health system variation, and building programs focused on dissemination has been about understanding the pathway to health care by learning about audience (patients, consumers, providers, caregivers) preferences. Research has focused on identifying aspects within the health care system that contribute to differences in care diagnosis and management. Program development has concentrated on creating tools that fill gaps in health care delivery. This work in combination has led to the core goals of ‘emerge’: our research has identified where the traditional pathway ends within the health system, and where the digital native path begins again outside of that system. Our program development work has identified what is meaningful to consumers and their evolving expectations of health care now and in the future. Two aspects of the consumer have emerged from this work:

The Missing Consumer

Years of research which focused on variations care as a result of patient or provider behavior culminated in work which described the relative influence of the patient, provider and organization on differences in diagnosis and treament (1). This, and related research, provided the background for what has evolved into the missing piece in the story of health care variation. Essentially, only a fraction of the variation in diagnosis and management of care is defined by the patient, provider and organization. Many other outside influences are contributing to the shift in the relationship between patients and providers and between providers and the health care system. None has been as influential as the role of technology. While the research on patients and providers typically exists within the health care box, another audience has emerged and is not well understood: the non-patient health care user. Whether it is PTSD, developmental screening, pain, substance use, or mental health, there is a consumer that is either pre-disease or is seeking (and redefining) health care as something outside of the traditional system.

(1) Marceau, L., McKinlay, J. B., Shackelton, R., & Link, C. (Epub ahead of print). The relative contribution of patient, provider and organizational influences to the appropriate diagnosis and management of diabetes mellitus. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.2011 Dec;17(6):1122-8.

The "Like Me" Consumer

Our dissemination research has uncovered common threads from the perspective of the health care consumer. Through a range of qualitative and mixed methods studies, we have learned that consumers want information that:

  • Fills a gap in information that is not typically provided during a clinic visit

  • Is delivered in a format that is accessible and engaging

  • Presents information that is genuine and approachable

  • Delivers actionable and practical tools

The fundamental message from our study participants, regardless of disease or condition, is that they want to hear real world ‘like me’ experiences. There is tremendous respect for subject matter experts, and this is considered an important element in the tools we’ve developed, but hearing from families or patients who have direct experience has been a resounding theme in our work. Similarly, they prefer tools that provide visibility into what they are experiencing on a regular basis, so that they can be involved in (rather than a spectator to) their care (2), (3).  

(2) Marceau LD, Link C, Jamison RN, Carolan S. Electronic diaries as a tool to improve pain management: is there any evidence? Pain Med. 2007 Oct;8 Suppl 3:S101-9.

(3) Marceau LD, Link CL, Smith LD, Carolan SJ, Jamison RN. In-clinic use of electronic pain diaries: barriers of implementation among pain physicians. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2010 Sep;40(3):391-404. Epub 2010 Jun 30.


Our combined decades-long expertise in research, technology social impact, and dissemination suggest that it is time to revise our definition of health care and quality of care. Emerge is committed to redefining care to include the broader vision of health to including physical, mental, social impact, and wellness alongside the clinical aspects of health.