Patient engagement is sometimes seen as a nice-to-have. Especially when budgets are tight. It can be tempting to fall back on tried and tested methods of developing a campaign.
But here’s why it’s essential.
Simply put, if you don’t ask the right people the right questions at the right time, you’ll end up solving the wrong problem.
The Dovetail team ran a focus group with healthcare professionals for a client developing a new topical formulation of one of its medicines.
The participants thought very carefully about the questions and told us, “Patients don’t like taking treatments like this”.
Then we asked the patients. They said, “We weren’t sure about it to begin with, but now we’ve got the hang of it, it’s fine. And it’s really effective at treating the condition, which is a great relief.”
It’s obvious that the patient information leaflet you write to support people trying something new, which they’re not sure about but their peers find useful, is very different from the one you write to try and combat feelings of total antipathy (and good luck with that one!)
Involving patients adds time and a layer of compliance, but will help you get it right, saving money and effort. It will also make your campaigns more authentic and impactful.
But how could the doctors and nurses have got it so wrong?
They simply didn’t have the same perspective as the patients.
And their patients hadn’t told them the whole story. While we’re a long way from the bad old days of “Doctor knows best”, people living with long term conditions often work hard to not be a bother to the busy healthcare professionals who look after them.
Time in clinic is limited and consultations necessarily tend to focus on solving the most pressing problems, especially at the moment, when services are so stretched.
Outside of peer support groups, people rarely have the chance to share feelings about how their condition affects them, what it’s actually like living every day with a stoma or diabetes or a watch and wait cancer diagnosis.
Patients also told us, “I’ve never discussed this with my medical team. I’ve told you things I’ve never told anyone before.”
So why did they tell us and not their healthcare team?
Because we were able to give them the luxuries of time and attention. And that makes it easier to meet each person with empathy and compassion.
The late Thich Nhat Hanh wrote on deep listening, “You listen first of all in order to give the other person relief, a chance to speak out, to feel that someone finally understands him or her. Other things like analysing, understanding the past, can be a by-product of this work. But first of all listen with compassion.”
By listening with compassion, we give people the space to share what really matters to them. When we understand that, we can start solving the right problem.
Get in touch with Dovetail if we can help you listen to your patients.