How to Get Patients to SPEAK UP!

At times, it can be hard for people to say what’s truly on their minds. Especially when it comes to speaking with their doctor. I’m sure most of us can relate to the patient in this AbbVie Endometriosis ad (shown below), when her inner person is encouraging her to open up and be more descriptive than the generic answers she’s giving the doctor. But the reality is, this is easier said than done. The commercial is part of AbbVie’s latest campaign, SpeakEndo, a website whose goal is to help women fully express their symptoms, advocate for their own care and learn from others with the same disorder. We know that patients tend to hold back from telling the whole story, and it’s great that online resources such as this platform are being created to teach patients how to convey their feelings to their doctors. But as marketers, we still need to know… what IS the whole story? How can we get patients to open up and tell us what’s on their minds (and in their hearts)?

Here at BuzzBack, we’re constantly thinking of new techniques that can help patients and HCPs speak up and express how they’re really feeling. Our latest health care study explored 10 different techniques marketers can utilize to get the most out of patients. One of these techniques, called Think – Say – Feel, asks patients to share these different layers with us through imaginative play. By asking them “What are you thinking?”, “What are you actually saying to the doctor?” and “How are you feeling?” during an imaginary visit with their HCP, we get a multi-dimensional understanding around patients’ deeper needs and concerns. Oftentimes, we do see that patients are reluctant or hesitant to share their true thoughts and feelings, but exercises like this give them a safe space to really open up and express themselves.

Want to find out what our Think – Say – Feel exercise taught us about Crohn’s Disease? Catch us in Philadelphia on March 27th at the IIeX Health conference where we’ll be presenting our study, 10 Effective Techniques to Inspire Patients to Tell All. Can’t make it to Philly? Click here to learn more. 

patient techniques market research

Creative Techniques Help Patients Find Their Voice

Health problems are often an uncomfortable subject to talk about, especially when your disease leaves you in pain and making frequent trips to the bathroom. Crohn’s Disease is no walk in the park for patients, and not the most enjoyable topic of conversation. However, when understanding patient experience is key to your strategy you need to get them talking!

But how? It’s time to get creative!

Sign up now for the Patients Tell All Webinar

We reached out to 300 Crohn’s patients to get them to open up about what is likely one of their least favorite things to discuss – their Crohn’s Disease.  Here’s what we learned. . .

Using pairs of circles as metaphors for different types of relationships proved to be an effective catalyst, getting patients to dive deeper into their relationship with the HCP who treats their Crohn’s.

While most patients view their doctor as a partner, a significant subset (around 1 in 3) feels a sense of disconnect and room for relationship improvement. Patients are more satisfied when they feel they are listened to, which highlights an opportunity for researchers to be a platform for expressing those feelings.


Tune into our latest webinar to learn more about how to design your study to get your patients to talk to you. Sign up here for Wednesday, December 6th or Thursday, December 7th.

Population Health and Meaningful Use: Where is the patient?

The Meaningful Use criteria for implementation of electronic health record systems will be getting a new set of standards next year. MU offers $30 billion in subsidies to doctors who get their electronic systems up to speed… Previously, doctors have only had to prove installation and usage of EHR to get subsidies; now they need to implement Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) reporting. PQRS requirements are being pitched to doctors as helping them focus on patient outcomes. However, according to the new value model imposed by ACA, doctors will be reimbursed on outcomes demonstrated in PQRS reporting. Medicare reimbursement will be prorated at certain quality levels, rather than given simply for treating a patient, and many insurance companies have adopted value standards as well.

Population health metrics are important from a micro and macro perspective. Some doctors are already using population health. Most are either annoyed or confused by the transition, and don’t understand their patients any better after implementation. Doctors really don’t have time. Institutions are under-staffed. The imperative goes unfulfilled.

As information technology has evolved, it certainly became possible to analyze massive datasets, and “big data” is all the rage. In addition to the government, others are driving their understanding of patients through massive databases. Big pharma and health insurers are two examples. On the other hand, it is also becoming easier for computers to analyze “soft” data, like written texts,  images, or even facial expressions. IBM’s Watson famously relies on  unstructured data, and IBM is focusing a lot of energy on understanding the healthcare universe. Further out, sentic computing systems are being developed to understand, and respond to, the emotional state of the user.

The incredible growth in social media proves that it is already possible for people to develop and maintain emotionally satisfying relationships via computer interface. Most of the communities are heavily based in visual imagery as the primary vector for communication.

While it isn’t possible to replace physicians with computerized simulacra of them (but will this really always be true?), it could be possible to provide patients with a focused forum to engage in rich communication about health and illness. This forum doesn’t fulfill the role that physicians still occupy, but enhances it in a way that patients associate the online activities with the provider. This would be a real model of patient engagement.

BuzzBack has long focused efforts on integrating quantitative analysis with “softer” variables. How does the respondent (doctor or patient) feel and think when we let them play with pictures, or ask them to write a story? How do these creative and unconscious processes relate to a drug, disease or medical situation? Then, what happens when we quantify the results of these creative exercises across hundreds, or thousands of people? We have done work like this for pharmaceutical companies to understand how physicians and patients interact with, and feel about, each other. How well do they understand a product promise and what does it mean to them? There are many different contexts and situations where BuzzBack integrates image-based and story-based methods into quantitative studies. These help our clients get a deeper understanding of the customer.

EHR and PQRS certainly perform extremely important tasks. However, they don’t really help understand patient motivations and needs better unless system designers find ways to step outside the box of straightforward rational thinking. At BuzzBack we’ve been stepping outside the box for a while, understanding patient behavior in ways that matter. For example, we’ve looked at the emotions that drive dialog between patients and physicians in multiple therapeutic areas. Using pictures as a vector to communication of underlying feelings, we’ve looked at how doctors feel about medication treatments in a variety of disease categories. What works for them, what doesn’t, and why do they choose different drug brands? We’ve worked with both patients and doctors, asking them to tell stories about each other, or to imagine conversations about difficult situations. The results of these studies are usually pretty surprising. We access the kinds of things missing from how the industry at large looks at patients and physicians: as a collection of myriad data points. They “forgot” to build in the vital human qualities, but we’re trying to patch the gaps, piece by piece.