Reality-based research – do you know what it is really all about?

I Word Cloudam often asked to explain to both agency colleagues and clients what the Behavioral Insights team does, and how it differs from other kinds of research.

Here is what I tell them…

Years ago, one strategically minded agency leader thought that he could do a much better job helping his pharmaceutical marketing and advertising clients if he knew what was really said when physicians and patients got together for their visits. He was right. Years later, we have recorded over 4,000 office visits and 8,000 corresponding post-visit interviews with healthcare professionals in over 20 therapeutic categories, along with their patients and often their loved ones—creating a whole lot of words and actions to analyze. Now we have a much better understanding of physician and patient dialogue and behavior—and a lot of insight into what goes on during real-world interactions in healthcare.

Over time we have broadened our offerings, but overall, we conduct primary research in real-world settings that focuses on healthcare dialogue and behavior. We do this by accessing techniques such as ethnography to observe our targets in physicians’ offices, their homes and work places, and while on the go. We analyze the data with sociolinguistic techniques. By monitoring social media, we can even take a look at what they write about online in open forums, and analyze their dialogue. We know that when a person feels less inhibited by the constraints they often experience when talking with healthcare professionals in person, they are able to ask questions and raise topics they normally shy away from.

From years of studying human behavior, we also know that what people say they do and what they actually do are not always aligned. We have heard it all, from asthma patients saying their daily lives are not impacted yet they gave away their beloved pet and ripped out their carpets, to spinal cord injury patients saying they accept their condition, but refusing to put a ramp in front of their home. We look to get under the surface and understand what is really happening, where there are gaps in communication, and what the intended and unintended consequences of these interactions are.Dialogue

We don’t stop there. Does the term computational linguistics sound intriguing to you? If so, you’re not alone. We can take a look at millions of words by using industry publications and see what words are most often used together and the frequency of words used to help your clients describe and own the scientific and clinical story.

Knowing so many of my colleagues are curious by nature, I am guessing you really want to know what we learned from our many years of doing this research! Well, you don’t have to wait much longer because we have a white paper, Top 7 Insights from Years of Observing Real-world Healthcare Communication, coming out shortly from our very own sociolinguist, Katy Hewett!

Of course, you can also just ask us! In fact, if you work directly with clients, make sure to talk to us about how we can share these exciting and unique offerings with them, and discuss what benefits these different offerings have for your brand.

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A Common Goal for Clinical Trial Participants

The Olympics opening and closing ceremonies allowed us to reflect upon and appreciate the diverse world we live in. Watching the procession of athletes was proof to us all that Olympians come from all corners of the world, in very many different shapes and sizes!

The same can also be said for clinical trial participants.

By their nature, global clinical trials can be considered an oxymoron. From a patient perspective, their participation in a clinical trial is a very personal decision. Many patients choose to enroll in a clinical trial for access to a medication that might give them a few more weeks or months to live, or the possibility of improved quality of life. Other patients may choose to participate as they want future generations to have the opportunity to live life to the fullest, something that might have eluded them. The list can go on.

As an agency when we look at patient participation, we need to remember that the probability of two patients on the same study knowing each other is very slim, so there will never be the coming together of a group of likeminded individuals on a given clinical trial. Likewise, we want to avoid the possibility of patients discussing their study experiences for fear of un-blinding themselves, but we want them to embrace the fact that they are not alone.

There are many different tactics we can use to bring a sense of community, or belonging, to patients in clinical trials. The biggest hurdle to overcome is creating a program that can be inclusive to all patients. Of course, the answer here is that a) that’s impossible, and b) that’s not a smart solution.

Thinking back to the Olympic athlete procession, the mix of cultures and values on show reflected the diversity of a group, but together with a common goal, to win gold.

In clinical trials, we want patients to have that same sense of a common goal, of purpose. However, the way we share that message is very different. For some patients, they just require clear instruction from their study team and feel confident that they know their commitment to the study. For others, they want to receive regular bites of information, telling them how many patients have been recruited, which countries are taking part, etc.

The tactics that we implement to inform patients about a clinical trial and then to keep them motivated to continue in the trial are not off-the-shelf ticket items. We know that each patient recruited will bring his or her own set of beliefs and information needs. In business, we often use Myers-Briggs as a way to build teams and recognize the differences among us. We embrace those differences and slowly learn how to work within our structure. We must do the same when communicating with patients globally about their health and their decision to volunteer to be a research study participant.

Crafting solutions can be challenging. In these cost-conscious times, sponsors are looking for the most cost-effective way to get their message across. As an agency working in these lean times, we are moving forward with new technologies and communication channels to reach all patients. London 2012 showed what can be achieved in tough economic times. The athletes have proved that regardless of ethnic background or values, there was a common goal and everyone has been part of the greatest sports day the world will see for another four years.

The same sense of belonging can be achieved for clinical trial participants; you just need to know what makes them tick….

Also posted in Access, clinical trials, Healthcare Communications, Patient Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed