Blog: Understanding the Patient Journey

Melinda Shorr, May 2013

I’ve been doing a great deal of patient journey research lately. Having been in the market research business for fifteen years, I am excited about the level of discussion between clients and agencies there is currently around what is really important to patients and caregivers as an inroad to successful marketing. When I started in this business, we didn’t ask too many patient questions. We may have asked a little about what creative concept they liked best for a direct-to-consumer campaign but (at the risk of showing my age), even DTC was very new then.

Man walking down street
Man walking down street

I’ve been doing a great deal of patient journey research lately. Having been in the market research business for fifteen years, I am excited about the level of discussion between clients and agencies there is currently around what is really important to patients and caregivers as an inroad to successful marketing. When I started in this business, we didn’t ask too many patient questions. We may have asked a little about what creative concept they liked best for a direct-to-consumer campaign but (at the risk of showing my age), even DTC was very new then.

But now I am constantly doing patient research.  In every therapy area, clients are interested in what patients’ lives are like.  They want to know about diagnosis and feelings about diagnosis, early treatment and emotional reactions to early treatments.  At every step, there is a decision (or 1000 decisions) about treatment, patient support, resources, delivery systems, dosing regimens and /or reimbursement.  And each of these decision points may offer an inroad or opportunity for a client company to create relationships with patients and caregivers.  These relationships may exist as a support hotline, a reimbursement card, an unbranded educational campaign or just a well known company name and logo.  But if the patient feels emotionally tied to the client company because somehow that company has tapped into and understood the patient or caregiver experience, that is an emotional link that may drive patient request, adherence or compliance.

For me, as someone who used to be a practicing psychologist, doing patient pathway research is very rewarding.  I love thinking about what is influencing patients at each point in their journey.  I love helping them think about their own decision making processes.  I love developing creative ways to help them think about even very personal and sensitive topics. Sometimes we can get at that information through gentle but direct questioning in the interview setting.  Other times we use collages, drawings, videos or any number of other techniques to draw people out and help me (and ultimately my client) understand the patient or caregiver experience.  When patient journey is done thoughtfully and with care, there is tremendous opportunity to create multiple inroads for relationship, connection and customer loyalty.

Mary Assimakopoulos writes a regular column on Patient Insights for eyeforpharma - read the latest column here. Our recent webinar, “Understanding the Patient Pathway”, references quantitative data to explore the relationship between patients and their physicians and how further understanding can improve marketing and communication strategies. 

Sign up to receive Rapport

Rapport is our e-newsletter and online resource for sharing our expertise and experience in global healthcare market research.

Sign up here