There’s a Disconnect Here

This is an excerpt taken from our article in the October issue of Quirk’s. To read the full article, click here

Twenty minutes, tops. That’s the average interaction between doctor & patient in a typical office visit. But what if it’s not typical because the patient has just been diagnosed with a disease? Discussions regarding diagnosis, treatment, possible medication and recommendations may occur, but it’s hard to understand what is resonating with patients who are given so much information in such a short period.

We know gaps in communication occur and effective patient-physician communication is often linked to adherence. In fact, our study on adherence last year found that at the point of diagnosis, patients frequently leave a physician’s office not knowing what condition the doctor diagnosed, not clear on what they should do, and not even knowing if they’ve gotten a prescription. Research has shown that comprehension, retention and action can improve through the use of visual stimuli in physician-patient interaction.[i],[ii],[iii] We’ve also found visual stimuli to be highly effective when uncovering patient and practitioner insights. Using images as catalysts helps engage study participants and can also help them open up around a sensitive topic to further identify what’s driving behavior and emotions around treatment.

For more details, download our Communication Gaps eBook now
 

For the purposes of our Communication Gaps study, we partnered with one of the top 25 pharmaceutical companies to conduct qual-quant research with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients and health care providers to find out how both sides viewed their relationship and what communication gaps exist before diagnosis, at diagnosis and as treatment continues.

The online methodology integrated interactive exercises – including a retrospective diary, projective thought bubbles and a collage-building tool – with standard measures in order to explore this relationship. More specifically, we looked at what doctors believed they were communicating effectively and what information patients were really retaining. We asked about experiences with COPD, the point of diagnosis, experiences with their PCPs, and communication around medication. For more details, access our Communication Gaps eBook immediately or click here to continue reading.


[i] Kessels, 2003
[ii] Annemiek 2013 (Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis)
[iii] Danielle M.McCarthy, ED discharge instructions, “Emergency Medicine International”

 

comm gaps

Humanizing the Patient-to-Medicine Connection

One of the challenges facing the healthcare sector at large is patient adherence. It’s a topic of continuing importance and increasing interest.With on average 50% of patients not taking their medication as prescribed (and 33% never even filling their prescription in the first place), there’s much work to be done in understanding how to drive compliance.

We recently explored the impact of emotions when it comes to adherence, co-presenting our new study with Merck at the Pharma MR conference. We found that diving deep into patient feelings about their experience provides clues to how to positively influence their behavior and affect better outcomes. For example, in this study, we explored how they feel about managing their condition and their feelings about their physician relationship.

But what about the roles other individuals play in the complex puzzle? For example, what is the role of the pharmacist? Recent industry data shows the pharmacist holds an influential position. For example, a 2013 study by the National Community Pharmacist Association identified patient connectedness with their pharmacist as the leading predictor of adherence.

This pharmacy/pharmacist connection was the focus of a Wall Street Journal article that caught our eye here at BuzzBack earlier this month. It featured CVS CEO, Larry Merlo, who focuses on this exact issue: the need to humanize the patient-to-medicine connection with a clearer understanding of emotions. He sees the role of CVS as one to “help people on their path to better health.” Mr. Merlo believes that one of the ways CVS can truly make a difference is in making sure people take the medications they are prescribed.

CVS has made improving adherence a central goal, looking to improve it as much as 15% over the next two years by working on the pharmacy-patient relationship, and not just the administration of the drug. Mr. Merlo sees the pharmacist as integral to the equation: “CVS figures a one-on-one conversation with a pharmacist is two to three times more effective than any other method to change patient behavior – in a way, the human element that often goes missing in the U.S. health-care debate.”

At BuzzBack, we are excited to be part of the debate. Through innovative tools and creative expression techniques, we help consumers find the language to articulate the obstacles that need to be removed on their road to better health. And we uncover more effective ways that pharma companies can prepare physicians and pharmacists to communicate and lead patients on their adherence journey. In fact, we’ll be conducting an upcoming webinar presenting the results of our study around this important topic. Click to attend the webinar on Wednesday, March 4th or Thursday, March 5th.

patient taking medicine

Oh, I See Now! – Using Visual Communication to Improve Adherence

The high level of nonadherence across all therapeutic categories is a hot topic, and becoming hotter.  It’s a question of enormous cost on one hand (to patients, insurers, CMS, hospitals, families…) and a serious question of lost revenue for the pharmaceutical companies. The team at BuzzBack has been working on nonadherence related issues for a number of years, and we utilize our tools to interpret how patients with a given disease understand and feel about what, exactly, they are going through.

In that light, a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Lisa Rosenbaum, M.D. caught my attention. Dr. Rosenbaum, who writes on medicine for many publications and is a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, explores how patient feelings impact adherence to medication for cardiovascular disease. The author cites a study that suggests that “one way to address medication avoidance is to better communicate the benefits of a drug. Although such communication is essential, so is the understanding of what beliefs contribute to avoidance of cardiovascular medications in the first place.” What’s exciting about that statement is that an increasing number of pharma companies are working with firms like us to dig deep into the “why” behind patient nonadherence. In fact, BuzzBack is currently working on a study (which we will present at the Pharmaceutical Market Research Conference on February 5) in which patients express feelings about their relationships with their doctor, their disease, and their therapeutic regimen, using visual imagery as well as direct questions. We are looking into how strongly positive and negative emotions can influence adherence, and whether it is related to usage of alternative medicine.

In her article, Dr. Rosenbaum recalls conversations with patients about why they abandon their regimens. She observes how some patients cite an interest in “natural” solutions. Patients see their prescriptions as “chemicals” to avoid – the drugs intrude upon the natural state of things. Other negative feelings and associations that reduce adherence include suspicion, shame, failure, aversion, fear of risk, and loss of control. Patients also say that today’s advanced medicine and its apparent speed of effect makes adherence seem less important (paraphrased as “I feel so much better leaving the hospital than when I came in – I don’t need to take the drugs anymore”). Related to that idea, patients who begin to feel better once on their own often become nonadherent. This is especially true for asymptomatic patients who lack concrete evidence of their improvement.

The article advocates what we often find when studying adherence. Pharma companies need to better articulate the purpose of their drugs to patients. They need to explain how both the obvious and unseen changes are both important. The article confirms what we have worked on for many years: visual metaphors and the visual delivery of this information can improve compliance. Dr. Rosenbaum writes about how patients on clopidogrel frequently explain why they take their medicine and what the benefit is to them. These patients use visual language (from Plavix ads) to paint the “here’s why I do it” picture: “It keeps my blood flowing. “It keeps the pipes from clogging.” The distinct visual lexicon creates a compelling mental image that seems to encourage adherence. Other research over the past 30 years has confirmed that visual imagery helps patients understand their disease better and adhere better to treatment. Rosenbaum proposes creating visual communications that make an emotional and personal patient-to-prescription connection that literally illustrates the purpose and benefits of the treatment. This begs the question: what visual metaphors can help companies outside Dr. Rosenbaum’s cardiology realm? How can visual and latent emotional insights improve diabetes adherence? Adherence with asthma therapy? What pictures should be included in communications that will ultimately improve and even save patient lives?

Dr. Rosenbaum’s conclusion echoes the spirit of BuzzBack’s mission when working with healthcare companies:

“Although we tend to view nonadherence as patients’ failure to know what’s good for them, learning about people’s feelings about medications has made me recognize that my ideas of good and bad were defined solely in my terms. What I’ve learned is that if I felt what they feel, I’d understand why they don’t.”

When innovating insights for pharma, we are driven to get at the why so we can influence better outcomes – often uncovering the visual language that will resonate profoundly with patients. As an insights professional, I often find those projects the most meaningful and memorable because they do the most good.

If you’re interested in learning more about BuzzBack’s own study on adherence, get in touch with us below.

man taking pills