Unlocking True Patient Understanding

April 2, 2013
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ImageThe concept of “patient understanding” is by no means a new idea. In fact, it’s been discussed for years as a critical component to enhancing the overall efficacy and efficiency of healthcare. However, despite the concept of patient understanding being widely promoted across all corners of healthcare, it has not yet been effectively executed on a scale that makes a widespread impact on patient care.

ImageThe concept of “patient understanding” is by no means a new idea. In fact, it’s been discussed for years as a critical component to enhancing the overall efficacy and efficiency of healthcare. However, despite the concept of patient understanding being widely promoted across all corners of healthcare, it has not yet been effectively executed on a scale that makes a widespread impact on patient care.

The challenge is that many organizations across the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector struggle with the ability to “hear” a critical mass of patients to understand the issues, concerns and struggles they encounter on the journeys they undertake with their conditions. With an inability to easily and effectively “hear” a critical mass of patients there is little chance of understanding them on a basis that will impact their overall treatment and care.

However, today the barriers to “hear” millions of patients and understand their needs, likes, dislikes, fears, emotions, concerns, hopes, decisions and actions have all but disappeared with the increased comfort and reliance of online sources for patients to seek information and interaction regarding their health. The key to this is not only in the fact that patients are interacting online at increasing levels, but also that the technology and expertise is now available to quickly sort through the millions of publicly available comments to filter, classify and understand these conversations and identify the valuable trends and patterns within.

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A Growing Comfort

Today, upwards of 75 percent of smartphone users use their device to look up health symptoms they are experiencing. A majority of patients rely on social networks and online sources to find health information and even discuss their own conditions in public forums. Many find comfort interacting with other patients who may personally understand their concerns and needs.

Several leading pharmaceutical companies are embracing multi-dimensional learning directly from patients to construct and better understand the journeys they go through with their conditions and treatments based on actual conversations these patients are having online.

To accomplish this, these companies are partnering with an advanced social intelligence provider to filter through millions of daily social comments from millions of patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals.

This approach provides unique visibility into providing opportunities to enhance education, messaging, communication and even product development with unsolicited, unbiased intelligence direct from the patient at a level and depth never before available. Essentially, this opens up the world largest patient “focus group” to healthcare companies. The difference is that this “focus group” is free from the bias seen from traditional focus groups and surveys and can provide rapid insight from thousands or millions of individual patients rather than the tens to hundreds of respondents often seen from traditional focus groups and surveys.

The key is adopting the right solution that delivers both powerful streaming big data processing to handle the volume and complexity of the social data along with insightful social analysis, resulting in actionable intelligence, beyond cursory social “buzz.”

Understanding the Journey

A robust patient journey can be constructed from the insights gathered providing detailed stages from symptoms and diagnosis to treatment and management. From this journey, decision points and drivers can be deciphered and concerns and impacts can be identified. For example, the impact of costs or lifestyle impact changes for patients can be identified as drivers in their decision-making process.

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Often, many unknown aspects arise from this social analysis that can impact treatment and compliance decisions for patients.

Pharmaceutical companies are using this holistic view to understand the efficacy and shortcoming of their brands as well as how they can enhance the education around treatments and increase compliance.

Beyond the Patient

While the patient is critical to effectively understanding this journey, it’s also important to include a deep understanding of caregivers and issues they experience within their own parallel journeys. Caregivers, be it spouses, parents, children, etc., are not only typically very influential in the patient’s various journey stages and decision making process, but they also often take their own journey with different experiences, needs, likes, dislikes, fears, concerns, hopes, decisions and actions.

By including the caregiver segment in the understanding process the healthcare provider or pharmaceutical company achieves multi-dimensional understanding of the patient and their primary influencer.

Bottom Line

The ability to enhance healthcare with deep “patient understanding” is no longer merely a point of discussion in the healthcare industry. Today several visionary pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers are unlocking the power contained within millions of social conversations to gain robust insight on the needs, decisions and actions of patients. This intelligence helps to construct the journey a patient goes through to illustrate the detailed stages and decisions related to symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and management.

This provides a unique, unbiased view to help healthcare companies truly enhance patient care through “patient understanding” by enhancing education, messaging, communication and product development like never before.

image: patients/shutterstock