Bridging the Gap Between Doctor & Patient

Physicians – on average – spend 15-20 minutes with a patient for a typical office visit[1]. While 15-20 minutes may be sufficient for a general health checkup, for people dealing with a chronic condition (or multiple conditions) this time can seem limited.

Now imagine that you, yourself, are sitting in your doctor’s office and you have just been diagnosed with a chronic condition. The doctor was running 5 minutes late, and after some introductions and the information about your diagnosis, you now have 10 minutes left of your appointment. What is your doctor telling you about your condition – which, until 5 minutes ago, you may have never heard about? What do you want to know?

BuzzBack has been hard at work developing a methodology that gives us both the patient and physician perspectives on these issues, highlighting specific areas where there are gaps that may be able to be addressed by other stakeholders (e.g., pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, etc.).

For instance, our research found that when talking to COPD patients, while PCPs and Pulmonologists tend to focus a lot on treatment options, symptoms, and the origin of the condition when diagnosing a patient, there is less of a focus on overall health, which patients indicate being the top thing that they wish their HCP had spoken about when they had been diagnosed.

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Check back here for more information about our upcoming webinar, where we’ll be presenting our research findings on Patient-Physician Communication Gaps. 


[1] http://www.ajmc.com/journals/issue/2014/2014-vol20-n10/the-duration-of-office-visits-in-the-united-states-1993-to-2010; http://khn.org/news/15-minute-doctor-visits/

Doctor Patient Communication Gaps

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

The Next Big Player in the Health Care Industry

Just the other day, I saw an intriguing teaser about pet insurance on AMA TV. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), this year pet owners are expected to spend $58.5 Billion on their pets and of that, $15.25 billion will go towards veterinary care. Due to the increase in people who treat their pets as part of the family and an upsurge in procedures and cost, pet insurance is positioned to be the next big player in the health care industry. It’s already starting to be offered as an employee benefit at many companies.

However, with the rise in popularity comes new regulations. Proposed California legislation which will regulate pet insurance is currently making headlines. The bill is up for a vote in the Senate. It will be the first of its kind. No other state has imposed regulations for pet insurance.

All of this reminded me of a study we conducted early last year with Hive, our online forum. We brought together a community of pet owners to explore all aspects of the relationships between pets and their human caretakers.  We discussed everything from the types of relationships they have, sleep habits, new product wish lists, holiday shopping behaviors, and even pet insurance. What we found is that there was a lot of hesitancy around acquiring pet insurance, largely driven by costs. Due to the economic climate, some pet owners made mention of barely being able to afford their own health insurance, much less being able to afford insurance for their pets.

pets

We found that with pet insurance being widely seen as a luxury vs. a necessity, those who offer insurance should first and foremost focus on value communications. Breaking costs down in easy to understand increments (i.e. for only $15 dollars a month, for only $100 dollars a year) might increase value perceptions. Offering tiered and/or customizable levels of coverage may broaden appeal.

Additionally, insurance communications should play-up the emotional bond that exists between a pet owner and their pet. In doing so, the takeaway is not ‘I can’t afford it’, it becomes ‘how can I NOT afford it?’

I must admit I used to be one of the naysayers when it came to pet insurance, but not long after we conducted this study I joined the ranks of those insuring their pets; after all, my pets are just two, very loved, extensions of my family.  So, for all you animal lovers out there, how do you feel about pet insurance?

To request a copy of the findings from our Exploring Pet Ownership Study, click here.

pet insurance

Gaming for Health Care

Talk about timing! The Wall Street Journal featured an article that cites the importance of engaging patients online as part of a health care regime. Two companies mentioned, Super Better and Personal Zen, use online and mobile technology combined with medical research and engagement techniques from gaming to actually treat depression, anxiety, physical and mental resilience or just your overall well-being. I found this new approach to treatment fascinating because it made me think about the ways in which the application of these insights could inspire compliance. We know that patient compliance is often mentioned as an issue in our own patient and physician studies (type 2 diabetes and COPD). Providing the skills necessary for patients to feel better in a fun and easy to use method could lead to better patient compliance in the long run.

As PBIRG Atlanta approaches next week, many of the top pharmaceutical companies will gather to discuss and ideate new methodologies in best practice health care. The industry continues to evolve toward patient engagement, and new ways of helping both patients and practitioners uncover emotional insights.

We’ll be presenting some new research on approaches to benefit statements Monday afternoon, as well as showing how BuzzBack techniques and engaging tools can help today’s pharma researchers go beneath the surface around health care issues.

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The Consumerization of Health Care

There has been a lot of criticism over U.S. health care recently. The changing landscape of health care and insurance has left some patients feeling a multitude of emotions. However, there is a new health technology startup that is hoping to change patient perspectives towards health care. I just learned that The Mayo Clinic has teamed up with Better to provide personal health care assistants through mobile device apps for a household fee of $49 a month. They are hoping to provide health care convenience by offering around the clock video chat with Mayo Clinic nurses, a “symptom checker” that can help you schedule doctor appointments and a central location for storing your own health records.

The convenience factor is obviously a plus. And, I can also see this app helping with patient compliance, an area often of concern between both doctors and patients in our studies, by allowing patients to take a more active role in their health. It should also alleviate some of the unnecessary doctor visits by some, which would free up doctors to spend more quality time with other patients.

There are other companies out there in this health technology space that are trying to aid in the convenience factor, like Doctor on Demand, American Well, and ZocDoc which I personally used just this week.  Should we expect even more health care apps to push out products on to our mobile phones in this brand new, yet already teeming market space?  It seems too early to tell if these health care apps will take off and be able to perform long term. However, I think they have a pretty good chance as the technology industry continues to aid the health care industry during this exciting time known as the consumerization of health care.

 

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Health Checkup: Comparing US & UK Health Care

There has been a lot of talk about health care recently. The Affordable Care Act in the US continues to make headlines almost every day as the government is still trying to get everything in place for the December 23rd enrollment deadline. And, the US is not the only health care system going through some changes. The recent overhaul of the NHS has been one of the most controversial reforms the UK government has pursued.

So we decided to give these two health care systems the once over. We examined patient concerns and how they feel about the changes. Our thorough checkup also covers healthy diets, safety and wellness, online medical records, and how patients choose their physician.

Even though these two systems are vastly different, patients in both countries agree on some points: childhood obesity is top of mind, diets they deem as unhealthiest and less than half of women are comfortable with their medical records online. To help you visualize some of these patient concerns we’ve created two infographics for a side by side comparison.

US & UK Healthcare

 

 

 

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