Inspiring empathy, understanding, and shared responsibility in HCP-patient interactions

In our fast-paced world of social interconnectedness, constant “stream of content” marketing, and information accessibility—we have the ability to answer any question, at any time, right at our fingertips. In the healthcare space, this means patients are becoming more empowered, often choosing to educate themselves on their conditions and demanding more say in the treatment decision-making process. For healthcare professionals, this change in dynamic can be challenging, and may require a shift in habits, or even an entirely new philosophy of practice.

As this dynamic continues to evolve and change, we are seeing a growing separation between HCPs and patients. The impact of this great divide in understanding is negatively affecting the treatment experience—for both sides—as well as severely limiting the trajectory of specialty healthcare brands.

Several years ago while sitting “behind the glass” I listened as a specialty physician described his interactions with his rare disease patient. He talked about how her hereditary angioedema caused her to make frequent, unnecessary trips to the ER, leave panicked messages outside of office hours, and display a general “neediness” far greater than that of his other patients. Needless to say, he was frustrated. Most likely, so was she, and neither knew how to make things better.

This physician, like so many others, was unaware of what his patient was actually going through on a day-to-day basis. He didn’t appreciate that the emotional burden she carried was overwhelming and omnipresent, and often had become more of a challenge than dealing with the rare disease itself. He also did not have the benefit of a solution—one that would benefit both himself and his patient alike. To solve this, we needed to get them to understand one another and embrace the possibility of a different approach.

Similarly, in the world of osteoarthritis, we’ve seen a significant disconnect between how patients express the pain they experience and the physician’s interpretation of their pain. Not only is pain subjective and difficult to convey, but a lack of empathy and meaningful dialogue during the office visit can leave quite a bit of room for misunderstanding, as well as missed opportunities for more effective treatment.

Even in oncology where treatment plans have traditionally been dictated by the physician, patients are becoming more aware of their options and are having a greater role in the management of their cancers. Without a mutual appreciation of both mindsets, goals can become quickly misaligned and plans unfulfilled. Insights into the behaviors of these audiences need to be uncovered, aligned, and leveraged if any real change is desired.

In nearly every specialty disease state, there is a universal divide that is impacting brand performance. In order to gain meaningful traction, specialty brands have to not only appeal to both audiences, but actively work to unite them for mutual good.

In the first example I discussed, we were able to raise awareness among HAE-treating allergists of the emotional burden the disease has on patients’ lives, thus prompting them to ask more relevant questions and admitting that they needed to take a different approach to treatment. The result was a marked improvement in quality of experience for both the prescriber and the consumer, as well as in brand performance.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve and place empowered patients as central participants in their care, so too should our marketing focus, especially in the areas of specialty pharma and rare disease.

At Dudnyk, we believe it is now more important than ever to examine both patient and HCP mindsets and how they impact communication patterns and treatment decisions. In doing so, we can unite these audiences in a way that will lead to better treatment experiences and, ultimately, to the realization of your brand’s full potential.