BLOG 2: Rapid Insights – What is the difference, and how did we do it?

5th August 2020

This is the second instalment of our Rapid Insights series. Last week, AHSN NENC Commercial Director Russ Watkins introduced the process and explored why, in the current climate, a faster method of evaluation is required. If you missed Russ’ blog, read it here.

This week, Julia NewtonAHSN NENC Medical Director, considers the how – how can you use a Rapid Insights method to create a snapshot evaluation? What are the benefits, the limitations and why do we need it?

COVID has allowed us to do things differently, without asking permission. Less talking – more doing and definitely less meetings. Performing Rapid Insights makes complete sense to me, it allows you to get a very quick helicopter view of what the state of play is, which can then allow you (if you want or need to) to focus on areas that have come up as problematic (or exemplars) in more detail – for those in the know…that’s called doing a deep dive!  I’ve always been of the view that getting views from big groups of people quickly in response to a situation can give you lots of really useful info.  However, those purists amongst you will no doubt have a different view.

‘Surveys’ are considered by some to be more market research than academic research and many from the more ivory tower end of that spectrum will turn their noses up at surveys. Yes, the questions can be leading (so be careful of that), yes, the respondents can be biased or want to push their own agenda, yes, the conclusions are not always robust and might need more in depth exploration (but it’s a starting point man) – but crikey we were in the middle of a pandemic and we needed to support the system to get some answers to some important questions quickly. So, Rapid Insights it was. Taking into consideration the ivory tower points, we spent a lot of time refining the questions. We kept reflecting back to ourselves ‘what are the answers that we would like to come out of an evaluation and how can Rapid Insights get us closer to getting that answer?’. Once we had a first draft of a scope and insights questions, we went through multiple iterations internally and with a range of stakeholder groups. I called that ‘road testing’ – this helped us refine the questions to ensure that the insights was not too long, but that we were taking the opportunity to ask for all the information we thought we needed.

When you’re completing a survey of any kind, there is nothing worse than if the questions don’t make sense, or the answers seem ambiguous, or worse still the survey platform doesn’t work (horror of horror) – so we went through lots of dry runs to make sure that we had everything working like a dream.

But that’s only the beginning. An insight is no insight at all if you don’t get any responses so you’ve got to make sure that the community you are interested in hearing from, are also interested (invested in) in working with you to give you the information you need. Often that is a case of making it clear that you value the input and that you will work with teams to take on board what people say – there is nothing worse than feeling like you are completing a survey and that the information that is important to you is just going into a black hole or into a report that will just be put on a shelf.  So, making sure you can get to the people whose thoughts you want is critical and feeling confident that they will be interested enough to give you their thoughts taking the time to complete the survey.

Part of the clue to Rapid Insights is in the title – don’t have the survey open for months! The point is that it gives you information from a snapshot in time.  Our Rapid Insight was open for two weeks (perhaps a bit long?) – but that does give you time to have a social media campaign to raise awareness and to push that out a couple of times.

Finally, once your Rapid Insight closes – don’t hang around to provide the information back to stakeholders. They’ve done you a favour by completing the survey – which is fab for those busy people – so the least you can do is get it back out to them summarised just as rapidly. If you needed the information quickly, so do they…that’s the point…a report in a month’s time is out of date, and much less likely to be impactful or acted upon as time has moved on.

I’ve learned that Rapid Insights have their place, particularly in a quickly changing landscape, but they’re not relevant or appropriate in all cases. Our systems are getting questionnaire fatigue and getting frustrated by completing things online that don’t feel like they change practise or have led to learning. I do worry we will just revert to the usual way and not learn from our experiences over the last few months. There has been so much good done it would be a travesty to just forget that and continue as we have always done. Seeing the pubs reopen and the usual summer holidays start, my memory is getting clouded and I am beginning to ask myself, ‘was it really as bad as I remember or was I just overreacting?’


In next week’s Rapid Insights blog, Russ and Julia come together to reflect on the evaluation. What worked well, and what they think of this way of working. ‘Rapid Insights: A reflection’ will be live on the AHSN NENC website next week.