The thought of conducting a focus groups with patients can be daunting, particularly if you are concerned that criticisms or conflicts might occur. They do however, have a place in HNA if used in the right way.
One way of managing expectations is to write to all partipants prior to the meeting to explain the purpose and remit of the discussion and to provide a point of contact for anyone who has any questions prior to the meeting.
Like qualitative interviews , focus groups can be a valuable means of gathering in-depth information and they can enable you to reach more people than a series of individual interviews. We would suggest that a group of 6 to 12 works best. This enables you to collect a range of views and opinions while still being a manageable size to facilitate.
Focus groups can be a good method for examining people’s experiences of disease or health services and the discussion which takes place can often bring to light common thoughts or differences of opinion. Care needs to be taken in facilitating the group that it does not become bias towards the views of those who speak the loudest.
Because the exchange of views and ideas between group members is an important part of the process, the information obtained will be less structured than questionnaires or interviews. It can be helpful to have two group facilitators, one to run the group and the other to take notes. You may decide that you would like to record or film the group. If so, make sure that you explain the reason for this at the beginning and ask if anyone has any objection.