Every time I’ve started a patient-centric initiative, I’ve given the direction to my teams: Be the patient. I’ve found this helps provide my creatives with a deeper understanding of what an average patient is going through. Recently, I took my own advice a bit too literally—I broke my left humerus bone and spent a day in an ER, followed by a day spent with a highly regarded orthopedist. Having never broken a major bone before, the experience was both very painful and very instructive.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I sensed an information disconnect—I kept asking questions but only got selective information in return. It seemed the hospital staff wanted me to feel comforted by giving me some answers while flat out ignoring others. They weren’t really listening to what I was asking for. This experience got me thinking about how we listen (or don’t listen) to patients in focus groups.
I’ve spent as much time as anyone in dark focus-group rooms, chain-chomping M&M’s® and taking notes on patient stories. But my accident made me wonder if my previous objectives had been to hear what I wanted to hear rather than to try to understand what patients were truly saying. Since patients are usually quite expressive in focus groups, if we really listen when they speak about how they are feeling, we can end up with keener, truer insights that might change the type of strategies and concepts we come up with in the future. It could also affect the patient’s long-term health.
For instance, at extrovertic we were recently able to discover a valuable truth about a patient group. This truth completely changed how we viewed the group and our approach, which ultimately resulted in very successful pre-launch and launch campaigns. We came to this truth by listening differently, not just to what the patients were saying about their condition, but to other significant experiences they’d been through in their lives. We established a greater understanding of our target demographic through this process.
To that end, listening beyond what patients are saying to truly get at what they are expressing or feeling can continue to help us find patient truths. With those truths, we can offer patients what they really need and not what we think they need. As a patient, I know I certainly would have appreciated being more closely listened to.
Are you really listening to what people are trying to tell you?