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

5 Milestones in the Patient Journey Every Healthcare Marketer Needs to Understand

Healthcare marketers are increasingly focused on more patient-centric approaches in order to develop effective ways to bridge gaps between patients & healthcare practitioners (HCPs). What used to be solely directed to physicians as prescribers and influencers for patients, now starts with patients.

Here’s why: understanding the patient experience involves understanding emotions around different milestones –   [1] pre-diagnosis suffering through [2] diagnosis, [3] post-diagnosis (3 months after), [4] living with the disease and [5] looking to the future while managing outcomes and treatment. And Patient Journey research is about focusing on these different milestones, in order to develop communications to improve the patient-doctor dialogue at each stage.

DOWNLOAD NOW!   'Mapping the Patient Journey' White Paper

And while we’ve developed our own approach to Patient Journey research, at BuzzBack we’re also focused on the changing consumer. Millennials, Gen X, and even Boomers are turning to digital tools, relying on smartphones and apps for news, weather and increasingly health info.

With more than 64% of adult US households having smartphones, the patient experience is no longer solely about the doctor relationship.

According to Hospitals & Health Networks, today’s patients are searching for doctors online, making appointments online, finding urgent care centers, monitoring their activity with wearables, etc. Healthcare marketers are creating detail aids and journal pieces, but also new apps and web-based support programs to get closer to patients. However, the underlying emotions driving their behavior are still similar. That means an even greater need to identify and deep dive into the patient journey. Developing effective tools, digital or other, stems from identifying insights linked to consumer emotions.

To find out more about how we obtained in-depth feedback by using imagery as a catalyst to map out the these 5 milestones of the patient experience, download our Patient Journey white paper now.

patient journey milestones

Patients (and Doctors) Are People Too

I attended a great conference the other day – the MRS Consumer Health and Wellbeing Conference. I was expecting to be baffled by lots of technical jargon and impenetrable specialist content – but, instead, was struck by how the key themes were relevant to all of us in our modern lives, whether we are consumers, patients, healthcare professionals… or even insights specialists like myself!

It brought home to me how humankind is undergoing huge societal shifts that are impacting us all with ever increasing intensity.

Unsurprisingly, a key theme was the enabling power of technology. It is driving fundamental changes in how we access the information we need to make informed choices and decisions. It’s changing how we share our stories and our lives, and how we support each other. It allows us to track our activities (I’m a fitbit user and also use mapmyrun.com to keep track of my exercise); there is even an app to help people cut down on their alcohol intake and, amazingly, to help people proactively manage their cancer journey.

If we overlay major demographic changes such as an ageing population in the West, we have a complex mix of change driving our lives. And the faster the fundamental fabric of life changes, the more important it is for organisations to talk (and listen) regularly with their end-users. Whether we think of them as consumers, users, patients or physicians they are all facing a complex array of decisions and choices, some rational, and many more intuitive and emotional.

I was really encouraged by the people-centricity of the organisations who presented. They are facing up to the changes, and realise that the only way to stay relevant is by actively engaging with the people that matter to their organisations… and doing it early, and often.

It seems to me that market research is performing an important role and has a healthy future ahead of it (pun intended).

doctors and patients

Patient Perspective is Unimportant Here

That’s what some people will still tell you in the healthcare industry in America. “Patients can’t tell you anything important”. Too many times, we encounter people who think the patient perspective can be obtained through someone else. “Doctors tell the patient story well,” they’ll say. Or, “We already know what patients need”. My favorite is this one: “The patient perspective doesn’t really matter here because they don’t have any say in product choice or usage.” It’s always left me silent when I hear this from folks in marketing, or physicians or executives. Do you care what the patient feels? How they perceive their illness, their body, in this context? In these cases, it seems like everyone knows what the patient wants, except the patient. Countless people have brought patient perspectives to the forefront in the past fifteen years, so it’s surprising to encounter this underlying bias.

In the research work that I do, the patient voice and the patient’s imagination are the most important focus for me. I know a lot of people agree, but I find that sometimes even the best intentioned people only go halfway in their efforts to let the patient represent their own point of view. Recently I came across an article in the Huffington Post about people who suffer from migraines. Several of them provided a brief metaphoric description of how they experience their symptoms (e.g., “It leaves my brain feeling like a wrung out washrag.” Or, “It feels like I’m pushing my head against a pallet of bricks.”). My reaction was really positive – here’s a national media outlet giving voice to sufferers of a neurological disorder.

DOWNLOAD NOW!   'Mapping the Patient Journey' White Paper

Along with the narrative descriptions, pictures illustrate these same symptoms (e.g., a face in agony with a washcloth being twisted over it). Something was off with the pictures – they all looked similar and they were way too polished. In fact, a HuffPost artist had created the pictures, rather than the patients themselves. “What a shame,” I thought. “There would be so much rich insight offered by getting them to draw their own self-portraits.”

At BuzzBack, we often ask patients to create pictures or collages about some experience they’ve had, or in response to an idea we present (an ad, a package, a description of a drug, etc.). Then we ask them to tell a story about their picture. We’ll do this across as many people as seems reasonable. Sometimes it’s 1,000 patients, and sometimes a lot fewer. For sufferers of rare diseases, we’ll do it with the ones we can gather – maybe 25 or 30. We do it in the US, and in many other countries too.

At one point we started asking doctors and other healthcare professionals to engage in this free form, creative work based in imagery. Surprisingly, the professionals do it willingly and energetically, and we now do just as much work with them as with patients. Talk about a group that needs a creative outlet to vent their issues: doctors must be the most frustrated profession in America. In a 2014 survey of physicians, 81% said they were over-extended, and 29% would choose a different career if they could go back. Within this framework, they love to create pictures and tell us stories, too.

Sometimes, we’ll ask doctors to depict a patient with “disease X”. At the same time, we’ll ask patients with the condition to describe their doctor, or themselves, or some other aspect of the disease and its treatment. Then we tie the two perspectives – two sets of images and stories – together. What do they have in common? Where are there discrepancies?

As one might imagine, we get a rich visual collection tied in with a strong narrative assemblage. It’s the patient story and the doctor story together. For clients, it’s crucial for coming to a better understanding of the disease their drug treats. We find unmet needs, the extent of the struggle, the concerns and issues that doctors and patients both have. It all comes from personal experience, and personal perspective. It’s unfiltered and extremely rich. And we don’t draw the pictures for the patients, we let them do it themselves.

To find out more about how we do what we do, download our Patient Journey white paper now.

headaches

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

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

 

 

 

healthcheckup