Transform Your Patients’ Experience with a Good Dose of Patient Perspective

September 13, 2017

From the perspective of a pharmaceutical and medical device company — or any healthcare system for that matter — the journey for an engaged patient goes something like this:

  1. Awareness:The patient or loved one becomes aware of the disease, treatment, risk, or opportunities for health improvement.
  2. Acquisition: They connect with an organization or professional who might help direct them appropriately for more information or care.
  3. Activation: They make a decision to take action to improve their health and begin a treatment plan.
  4. Adherence: They are motivated to stick to the treatment plan for as long as it takes — ideally making positive changes for life.
  5. Advocacy: They are motivated and inspired to share their health story with other people who are like them, which continues the circle of raising awareness.

We also follow this path with the Legacy Care Model, and are happy to prove it time and again to be effective in improving healthy outcomes for both healthcare organizations and patients alike.

But this is not the patient’s point of view.

The Patient Perspective Is Different

This five-step acquisition-through-advocacy journey is definitely not the perspective of the patient. When someone is introduced to new information that could dramatically influence quality of life, they always have three questions:

  1. TRUST: Can I trust you and the information you are providing me?
  2. HOPE: Is there really hope you can help me make a difference in my health?
  3. EMPATHY: Have you been here before? Do you truly know what I’m going through?

Trust and the Patient Engagement

Let’s talk about trust first. Trust, we all agree, is essential for getting someone to believe in you, making a sale, or creating ambassadors for your brand. At the same time, how many of us in the health industry have trust as a measurable metric? A key performance indicator?

It’s not surprising. Establishing trust is tricky, especially for a for-profit health organization. It takes time, energy, and focus. It’s hard to think about trust in a scalable way. And it’d definitely difficult to measure.

Difficult, but not impossible. Trust is made up of a few essential ingredients:

  • Relationship: Always take the time to build a personal connection. It may not seem possible at scale, but it is.
  • Reputation: Take care to establish a positive reputation online and through word of mouth. What others say about you matters.
  • Reliability: Follow through on your promises. Respect their time and be consistent.

Oh, and one more: self interest. The final and defining element of trust is the patient’s perception of your company’s self-interest.

People are skeptical, and with good reason. If the patient senses your self-interest to be greater than their perception of your relationship, reputation, and reliability combined, you get zero trust.

This “trust formula” is often discussed in leadership training, and you’ll find a great description of it here at the Sales Coach. At Legacy, establishing trust is a guiding force in everything we do.

Hope Is Essential for a Positive Patient Experience

Without hope, there is no activation. A loss of hope means a decrease in adherence. And it definitely dooms any possibility of advocacy. But how do we instill hope, when we have so many limiting factors, such as:

  • Regulatory limitations
  • Chronic disease
  • Access to care

It’s true that regulations limit what and how we communicate with patients. And it might seem impossible to showcase hope when there is no known cure or limited access to care. Companies are often tempted to be broad, impersonal, or clinical with their patient communications to address these limitations. But that only leads to decreased hope.

Hope is established through voice and tone. It can be shared through stories. It is often misunderstood as an all or nothing, when some people find solace in hope for a pain-free day. Or sleeping through the night. Understanding what hope means for your patients and guiding them to these personal goals will improve the patient experience exponentially.

Empathy Is the Top Secret Trust-Maker for Patients

Who would you more likely believe, the information and care guidance provided by someone who has researched the topic well or the person who has actually walked in your shoes before? A person with empathy has been there and knows what to expect. They have tried things that worked and things that didn’t. They know how the patient feels because they have been in a similar situation themselves.

Ideally, a care manager has a both: empathy and experience. And yet so many pharmaceutical, medical device, and healthcare systems completely overlook the power of empathy in establishing a trusted relationship and optimizing the patient experience.

When you hire and train care managers for your patient engagement programs, look for people who can feel and display empathy in one way or another: as a patient, caretaker, or care provider. This alone will make you a stand-out in patient satisfaction.

Just remember, your internal patient engagement process might be perfect, but understanding your patients’ perspective is absolutely essential for creating a program that works for them and ultimately leads to healthier outcomes.