boom in online education

Post-secondary online academic offerings are certainly not a new concept. The topic has, however, crossed our radar more frequently over the last year than in the past. With college enrollment numbers on the decline, administrators are angling for ways to combat rising costs and garner renewed interest among prospective populations. It’s no secret that the higher education space is shifting. Millennials are staying in college longer to increase their competitiveness in the marketplace, and they’ve been leaders in the shift towards online learning. As Generation Z moves through the post-secondary pipeline, digital learning is expected to be the norm. The mix of recent high school graduates and mid-career professionals that have a thorough understanding of technology, but varied academic needs occupying the same institutional space will stack the deck in favor of online program offerings. As colleges and universities begin to explore this opportunity, we’re seeing heightened interest in investigating the long-term viability of online programs.

Recently, our clients have expressed an interest in the following with relation to online programs:

  • The feasibility of offering current academic programs in a fully online or hybrid format
  • Satellite location feasibility for hybrid offerings
  • New program feasibility of an online-only program
  • Enrollment projection
  • Research with individuals who inquired, but failed to enroll in the institution

The assist our clients with this research, we’ve taken several approaches.

  • We’re conducting more program feasibility studies than ever before. RMS is talking to local employers, prospective students, and workforce development personnel about academic preferences and current labor market needs, and we’re reviewing labor data to uncover projections about future need.
  • Our clients are eager to locate affordable satellite locations for hybrid programs, and identify potential partnership opportunities with local businesses to reduce operating costs. Our team of experienced researchers is identifying potential locations, considering factors such as cost, occupancy rate, and availability (among others).
  • Interest in enrollment projections is also on the rise. Institutions want to know more than a level of interest among the target audience. They want to see a projection of future enrollment to provide a deeper understand of long-term viability.
  • More institutions are investing in research to understand the motivations behind the individuals who made an inquiry with the college but ultimately did not enroll in a course or program. Leveraging this pocket of the market allows institutions to convert those who have not yet enrolled elsewhere, or are dissatisfied with their experience at a competitor institution.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

The following blog post was written by Karen Joncas, a Healthcare Transformation Coordinator at RMS.


The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has announced that it is redesigning the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition process to better engage practices in an ongoing assessment of compliance with PCMH standards.

Four key goals of the newly redesigned PCMH program will be to:

  1. Strengthen the link between recognition and practice performance;
  2. Align PCMH recognition activities with other reporting requirements;
  3. Leverage the practices’ investment in health information technology; and
  4. Increase practice engagement while reducing non-value added work.

Under consideration for the redesign are:

  1. Engaging practices in an annual “check-in,” rather than submitting documentation every three years, including a demonstration of how the standards are integrated into every day practice culture and how they continue to enhance their patient-centered approach to care;
  2. Reducing the documentation burden by introducing opportunities for virtual demonstration of processes and using information generated in the course of patient care to support alignment with the standards; and
  3. Offering education and guidance to practices undergoing the transformation process including live support, enhanced on-line resources, and improved customer service

Organizations which have pursued PCMH Recognition understand first-hand how this recognition has directly contributed to improved patient care. Practices that have experience with the PCMH Recognition process and have worked directly with NCQA are encouraged to reach out to NCQA to provide thoughts, ideas, and pertinent questions that will facilitate a successful launch of the new review platform. If you are engaged currently or have been involved in the recognition journey, visit the NCQA website and/or email NCQA at ideas4pcmh@ncqa.org. If you would like to be regularly informed of upcoming changes, you should consider enrolling in NCQA’s subscription center here.

RMS Healthcare, a division of Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) has over 50 years of collective and proven experience in providing consulting services to meet the specific needs of our clients. Regardless of your healthcare research or practice transformation needs, RMS Healthcare can help.  If you are interested in learning more, please contact Susan Maxsween, Senior Director, Healthcare Operations and Compliance SusanM@rmsresults.com or at 1-866-567-5422.

Source: NCQA Blog

retail banking

Over the years, branch usage and face-to-face transactions have decreased in frequency at financial institutions.  Alternate banking channels have become more convenient, familiar, and rich in features.  Consumers are turning to ATMs, Kiosks, Mobile, and Online to conduct transactions that in the past they may have gone to a branch for.  A study conducted by FMSI found a 45% decrease in average monthly branch transactions between 1992 and 2013, and this trend has been accelerating since 2007.  This ultimately leads to fewer personalized touch points for interacting with customers, and increases the risk of customers viewing their financial institution as more of a commodity, and less of a comprehensive source for their financial needs.  As a result, it is becoming increasingly important for retail banking institutions to take a consultative approach with customers and members.  This is an opportunity for financial institutions to differentiate themselves from competitors by providing a unique, personalized service and establishing their organization as a full-service, primary financial institution.

Emphasizing the importance of branch and live representative phone transactions, and taking a consultative approach with customers has many advantages.

  • Increase share-of-wallet and revenue.  Financial service representatives should be trained to learn about customers, ask the right questions, and identify appropriate cross-selling opportunities.  A financial institution establishing itself as the customer’s primary institution will help grow overall operating revenue as customers use more of that institution’s products.
  • Establish competitive advantages.  At the present time, financial institutions may find that developing a relationship with customers through a consultative approach is a unique selling proposition in their market.  Delivering a personalized experience to help customers find the products that best suit their needs and providing them with financial consultation will help an institution position itself ahead of the competition in the customer’s eyes.
  • Increase customer retention and loyalty. Developing a relationship with customers, and being the place customers turn for all financial services will ultimately improve customer retention.  The most critical phases in establishing customer relationships typically occur either in-person or over the phone.  A Gallup study found that customers prefer interacting in person at a branch for opening an account, applying for a loan, or seeking financial advice.  The study also found when reporting a problem, or inquiring about a fee, customers prefer to use a branch or interact with a live person over the phone.  Taking the time to coach customers with opening an account, or solving a problem will certainly have a long lasting influence on customer loyalty.

Market research is a tool that can be utilized by financial institutions to understand customer needs and identify areas of opportunity.  Customer and market area insights make it easier to effectively consult with customers and tailor products and services to their needs.

  • Identify the needs of customers, as well as the needs of the primary market area.  An image and awareness study conducted with the general public will provide insight on the market’s awareness of financial institutions, and perception of service offerings.  It can also further examine products and services individuals are using, and identify the needs of the market.   Another option is a customer satisfaction study, conducted among customers to provide insight into customer needs, and satisfaction with the services offered.
  • Identify competitive offerings in market. Competitive assessment studies identify competing financial institutions, along with details of the products and services they offer.  This allows financial institutions to adjust their messages, offerings, and customer experience to ensure they maintain their position in the market place and are able to exceed competitive offerings and services by tailoring the customer experience.
  • Mystery shopping studies.  Financial institutions conduct mystery shops as either ongoing studies, or in waves throughout the year.  Keeping an eye on the customer experience helps institutions measure the effectiveness of employee training.  Mystery shopping can also identify opportunities through understanding the true customer experience.  Mystery shoppers will report on how personalized their experience was, and if their experience aligns with the approach representatives are expected to deliver.

Market research can assist financial institutions with offering a consultative approach and improving customer engagement.  Focusing on the consultative approach will help banks and credit unions build life-long relationships with customers and remain relevant and top-of-mind when customers need financial products and services.  If you would like to learn more about conducting market research studies for banks and credit unions, please contact Sandy Baker, Sr. Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at 1-866-567-5422 or by e-mail at SandyB@RMSresults.com.


My name is Erica, and I’m a Research Analyst and Social Media Strategist at Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS). Some of our readers may know me as a project lead, a LinkedIn connection, or former colleague or classmate. Being the advocate that I am, I fully believe in the power of social media, but a few bullet points that breeze through my job description on LinkedIn is not the best way to understand my role and daily life at RMS. Let’s break it down…

Unless I have an early morning client meeting or work function, I start most days at the office by checking email. Although there’s a plethora of research that suggests NOT checking email as soon as you get to the office is best, I find it’s a great way to ease my brain into the day to come. And I keep up with my email throughout the day, so I rarely have more than 20 emails to sift through on any given morning. Once my inbox is tidy, I switch gears and put on my social media management hat. I hop on Buffer to check the social media posts that have been uploaded for the day by our fabulous Social Media Content & Panel Coordinator. We source and create most of our content in advance, so by the time I see them in Buffer, they’ve already been “approved.” Now I’m just double checking that there are no spelling/formatting errors, ensuring that links work, and graphics are displaying properly. This is also the time when I’ll post a company blog update, if we have one scheduled that day. Once that’s ready to rock and roll, the rest of my day will consist of various meetings, client communications, and project work.

As any of my colleagues past and present will tell you – I’m a morning person. Knowing that I do my absolute BEST work in the AM hours, I purposely tackle the projects and tasks that require extra brain power first. So if I have a project that is wrapping up, I’ll dive into the reporting next, and power through data analysis or weaving together an executive summary with “next step” recommendations. Other days I might draft a business proposal and cost sheet for new work, create an online survey script or in-depth interview guide, or analyze our social media performance data and update our dashboard. I’ll head out for lunch to re-energize my brain, and jump into the next task of the day. I might be scheduling and conducting a large volume of interviews for a project, updating clients on a project via email or phone, or meeting with colleagues to brainstorm about business development opportunities or a client report. I could also be drafting my next blog post; reviewing trends in social media, market research and higher education; or reviewing and updating our social media strategy. RMS is a company that truly empowers employees to have a work-life balance, so most days I’m able to leave the office on time. I’ve found over the years that this work-life balance is a key component to employee satisfaction, efficiency, and quality of work product produced. Work to live – don’t live to work! That’s life in a nutshell at RMS for a Research Analyst and Social Media Strategist. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have about working in market research, in this or similar roles, or about RMS!

If you’re interested in learning more about RMS, please visit our website. If you’d like more information about the services we offer, please contact our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 315-635-9802.

The following blog post was written by Karen Joncas, a Healthcare Transformation Coordinator at RMS.


Across the country, health care and community resource providers have joined together to transform our health care delivery systems, reducing the upward cost curve of Medicaid spending while ensuring access to appropriate, quality care. States have been given the opportunity to reinvest federal savings in programs, which at the highest level, are designed to meet the triple aim objectives set by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) of improving population health, improving patient experience of care and reducing per capita cost. One key approach being implemented here in New York State is the Delivery System Reform Incentive Program (DSRIP), which specifically targets how healthcare is provided to Medicaid patients.

New York State has structured its DSRIP initiative to promote coordinated community networks of care called Performing Provider Systems (PPS). Performing Provider Systems combine providers of hospital care, primary care and community resources that service a community’s Medicaid population. Each PPS submitted an application to New York State, identifying transformational initiatives based on its Community Needs Assessment, which would meet the primary goal of reducing avoidable hospital care by 25% over five years. This process took place in 2014. Avoidable hospital use includes reducing preventable emergency room use, reducing preventable hospital re-admissions, and focusing on preventive care. Funding for eligible providers is paid throughout the five-year transformation DSRIP program and is based on the PPS’ progress in meeting milestones toward achieving stated goals. At several points over the five-year period of the program, PPS must supply the State with metrics and benchmarks to assess their progress. Now that PPS’ across the country are firmly entrenched in DSRIP, there are additional roles for market research firms to assist in evaluating performance or other assistance in meeting their goals. Specific research roles include community engagement activities and patient experience measurement.

Throughout the DSRIP process, stakeholder and community engagement is critical to the overall success of the program. Stakeholders include 1) patients uninsured or insured by Medicaid, 2) healthcare workers and providers that serve the Medicaid community, 3) representatives from community resource organizations and 4) community residents with commercial health insurance. The processes used to engage these stakeholders include individual in-depth interviews (IDI’s), focus groups, and surveys. One unique way to engage community stakeholders in “real time” is by using a pre-qualified, on-line panel recruited and managed by the market research firm. These methods allow for benchmarking and longitudinal tracking required to report performance against stated goals.

At the conclusion of the DSRIP program, it is expected that the health care delivery system targeting Medicaid patients, as well as ambulatory care, will provide accessible, high quality healthcare in the most appropriate setting and de-emphasize care provided in the hospital. One means of recognizing successful transformation is through receiving National Committee for Quality Assurance’s (NCQA) Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition (PCMH). PCMH recognized practices proactively engage their patients, including Medicaid covered patients, in achieving the IHI triple aim goals. To that end, it is expected that primary care practices participating in the DSRIP will become PCMH 2014 Level 3 recognized no later than DSRIP’s Year 3.

Another way to incorporate patient experience outcome metrics is through the utilization of the CG-CAHPS survey tool. The survey is administered to patients to assess any disparities in the patient experience of care. Using a certified CMS vendor to administer the survey provides benchmarks and longitudinal change information needed for improving process and optimizing patient experience.

RMS Healthcare, a division of Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) has a successful history of assisting practices in obtaining Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition, and is uniquely qualified to provide assistance to a PPS. For further information on services we can offer to your PPS, please contact us at 1-866-567-5422.

Central New York has long been revered as a great market for product and concept testing. You may have caught our previous blog post about the topic, where we discussed the market characteristics that make the city of Syracuse an ideal test market. We noted how Syracuse has a similar demographic composition to the United States population—the geographic isolation provides an advantage in terms of advertising exposure, and media advertising is more affordable here than in larger cities. The geographic isolation has not changed and advertising is still more affordable than in larger metropolises. However, being the curious researchers that we are, we wondered if the data still supports the area being a good test market option in terms of demographic composition. That curiosity led us to QuickFacts1, a data repository provided by the United States Census Bureau. We were pleased to find that a wider net than just Syracuse (Onondaga County) reflects the United States population as a whole. Below you will find several graphs illustrating the striking similarities across several US Census statistics. Essentially, in terms of gender, race, educational attainment, median household income, and owner occupied housing unit rate, Onondaga County is highly representative of the United States population.


  • The gender breakdown for Onondaga County is within one percentage point of the US population for both males and females.


  • Onondaga County closely reflects the US population race demographic, with the largest disparity being the Hispanic or Latino population.


  • The highest level of education achieved is also very similar among Onondaga County and the United States as a whole, with a mere four percentage point difference among the two for each education level.


  • The median household income of Onondaga County residents is remarkably comparable to that of the United States population, within $1,000!


  • The percentage of Onondaga County residents who live in a home they own is nearly identical to the United States population.

What does all this mean and why is it important? When developing a product, creating a concept, or introducing a new marketing campaign, it is critical to understand the behavior of the target audience. Implementing a market research project in a test market will allow you to determine the viability of the product, concept, or campaign on a wider scale. It will also provide vital feedback regarding your marketing strategy, customer response, and distribution channels. The most crucial component of choosing a test market is ensuring that it matches the target market in terms of demographics. The demographic similarities to the US population make Onondaga County a great test market for companies interested in rolling out products, concepts, or campaigns locally or nationally.

If you’re interested in learning more about utilizing Onondaga County as a test market, contact our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 315-635-9802.

1QuickFacts data are derived from: Population Estimates, American Community Survey, Census of Population and Housing, Current Population Survey, Small Area Health Insurance Estimates, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, State and County Housing Unit Estimates, County Business Patterns, Nonemployer Statistics, Economic Census, Survey of Business Owners, Building Permits.

This blog post was written by our guest blogger Megan O’Donnell, Manager at Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) Healthcare Division.


The Affordable Care Act mandates that all eligible professionals in practices of two or more physicians, who are receiving payment for Medicare Part B fee-for-service under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS), participate in public reporting of patient experience with Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS). The goal is to have clinical and patient experience data publicly available to Medicare beneficiaries, allowing for comparison between health care providers based on clinical and patient experience quality outcomes.

As part of the requirements for PQRS, practices with 100 or more physicians have included patient experience measures for calendar year 2013 and 2014. As of 2015, these practices will be required to contract with a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved survey vendor to administer the CAHPS for PQRS survey. Practices with two to 99 providers have the option of administering the CAHPS for PQRS survey, using an approved vendor, but are not required to do so at this time. Any practice that is required to, or chooses to administer the CAHPS for PQRS survey, must use one of the CMS-approved survey vendors.

CMS has currently provided conditional approval to survey vendors to conduct the CAHPS for PQRS survey on behalf of medical practices, including RMS – Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc. The following timeline of activities are anticipated for the CAHPS for PQRS survey administration for 2015:

JULY – survey vendor training (the final approval step for all survey vendors)

AUGUST – CMS posting of all survey vendors receiving final approval to administer the CAHPS for PQRS survey for 2015

SEPTEMBER – deadline for each group practice to authorize its CMS-approved survey vendor to administer the survey on behalf of its organization

NOVEMBER – beginning of survey administration process

FEBRUARY 2016 – end of survey administration process and submission of survey data to CMS by survey vendor

All dates are subject to change by CMS. Interested stakeholders can watch for additional details and information as it becomes available on our RMS blog or the official CAHPS for PQRS website.

RMS Healthcare is an approved vendor for the CAHPS® for PQRS surveying process. If you are interested in learning more about our survey services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.


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