Metaphor in Video: Simple Ways to Improve Patient Education and Boost ROI

August 16, 2013
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pharma patient educationAs a pharmaceutical marketer, your deep knowledge of the industry and the science behind your products is a powerful thing. You use it every day to create a healthier population. Sometimes, pharmaceutical industry jargon is a part of that. Jargon makes things specific, and being specific is key to explaining things. People should feel fully informed when it comes to their health.

pharma patient educationAs a pharmaceutical marketer, your deep knowledge of the industry and the science behind your products is a powerful thing. You use it every day to create a healthier population. Sometimes, pharmaceutical industry jargon is a part of that. Jargon makes things specific, and being specific is key to explaining things. People should feel fully informed when it comes to their health.

But sometimes, because your head has been buried in Pharmaland for so long, you use too much jargon, forgetting that the people you’re talking to do not hold a Pharm.D. and might be easily confused by industry speak. This is when it’s time to take a step back, calmly remove your jargon hat, and try to work out the simplest way to make patients understand. 

Replacing Jargon with Metaphor 

The main problem with using a lot of jargon is that most patients have no frame of reference for it. Additionally, if someone has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness, his brain might be a little foggy from stress and shock, making him even less able to take in — let alone retain — the complex information necessary to manage his health. 

From an economic perspective, if you are doing direct-to-consumer marketing and your consumers don’t understand how the treatment works, they’re less likely to use it. This means they’re less likely to order a prescription or use it correctly, which means they will tell their physician it didn’t work, reducing your return on investment (ROI). 

To create new knowledge for patients, it’s necessary to connect to their existing knowledge. Metaphors are a good way to bridge the knowledge gap. If you’re trying to explain insulin therapy to a type 1 diabetes patient, you could take a page out ofWebMD:

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“Insulin is a hormone that treats diabetes by controlling the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood…It’s important to space your insulin doses throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels within the normal range despite eating habits and activity patterns.”

Prepare to watch as your patient’s eyes glaze over as first confusion, then boredom, set in. Or you could put it in terms he already understands:

“Okay, Jimmy. Think of your pancreas as a refrigerator. Refrigerators keep food cool so it doesn’t spoil, right? A chemical called Freon is what helps fridges stay cool. Think of that Freon as insulin. If a fridge runs out of Freon, the food will go bad. Your body needs a consistent stream of Humalog so its food doesn’t go bad.”

What you need to realize is that your story has to solve someone else’s problem, so you need a way to express it concisely. The trick is to know what your consumers will understand. Everyone has used a fridge, but there are as many metaphors as there are drugs, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

The Perfect Medium for Metaphor 

Patient comprehension is essential for both successful health management and a healthy bottom line. A good metaphor ensures a patient understands, and video is a proven way to reach as many patients as possible.

In the case of metaphor, shortening the explanation makes it easier to understand. The same can be said for video. People aren’t going to watch a five-minute talking head video about Humalog, and even if they do, they’re unlikely to retain anything.

So if you can combine an effective metaphor with a 60-second video, you’ll really capture consumers’ attention. Why? A strong metaphor activates large areas of memory quickly; if you don’t connect incoming information (aka “working memory”) with the viewer’s long-term memory in the first 5 to 10 seconds, it’s lost forever.

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Video — especially animated video — is an effective medium for several reasons. Statistically speaking, simple video messages (as opposed to written information) increase retention by 58 percent. If people remember what you say, they are more likely to act on it — in other words, purchase it. Research shows that when you simultaneously receive both auditory and visual information, you end up with a retention rate of 68 percent. Plus, with video, you reach both visual and auditory learners, covering a wider consumer base.

How to Put It in Layman’s Terms

So, how do you step back and put all your pharmacological knowledge in layman’s terms, with the end goal being a captivating video? Just imagine that you’re explaining it to a patient in person. Walk him through it. Remove industry speak completely. Keep a thesaurus by your side, and use it to find words that a 12-year-old could understand. It might sound condescending, but it’s really just a question of keeping it simple so everyone is on the same page.

It might also help to try writing down how you would explain a drug to a patient. Feel free to lay it all out in a stream of consciousness, and then condense it via process of elimination. Ask a patient who’s been living with type 1 diabetes for a few years to explain his insulin treatment to you so you can hear the metaphors and words he uses. Industry outsiders will share information in the simplest form, so it’s advantageous to listen to them.

If patients remain in the dark about a drug or treatment, their ignorance will breed fear, which can keep them from purchasing the necessary medication. People trust in what they understand. Video has proven itself worthy of increasing a viewer’s retention. Add a simple metaphor to aid comprehension, and you’ll have the perfect educational cocktail.

(educating a patient / shutterstock)