Yes, I said it – it’s not just about the patient. It’s about much more.

Countless healthcare companies focus on “patient-centricity”, but this, at its core, is an individualistic approach. In real life, we are continually faced with the many twists and turns created by our larger social sphere – juggling work, family time, children’s needs – while reacting to a constant stream of interruptions due to schedule changes, work deadlines or relationship problems. The sole focus on the patient overlooks key aspects that influence our health decisions and behaviours each day. People also don’t identify as a “patient” at all, but rather as a mother, executive, volunteer, and wife.

Recent research by inVentiv Health (based on more than 600 hours over 2 years with 30 families) found that any type of healthy behavior from an individual often falls victim to a circle of constant interruptions and the hectic pace of our social-centric daily lives. In addition, acute illnesses (i.e. broken bones, the flu) trumped chronic illnesses with a ‘patient-of-the-day’ mentality depending on the perceived greatest need from family members (and not surprisingly, children are prioritized above all). Layered on top of this, is the ever-expanding sources of healthcare information that now extends from healthcare providers to include friends (and even strangers), medical TV experts, teachers, colleagues and random online sources.

A wider, more social-centric mindset can lead to greater understanding about what it will take to make a real impact in supporting and motivating patients. From a healthcare communications perspective, this means we need to:

  • Reframe our messages: Speak to patients in terms of what matters to them – such as the importance of staying healthy for their family – and educate HCPs on how to talk with patient in the language of family needs
  • Extend beyond the patient: The participation of family is “make or break” in healthcare success. Expand materials and support to others affected including caregivers, extended family members, colleagues and friends. Provide resources that speak to these audiences specifically and share what they can do to support the patient
  • Provide practical information: Move past the notion that consumers are only focused on their individual health. Include materials that can help with daily life such as talking to your employer about your condition, explaining your illness to your children, ensuring adherence with a busy schedule or navigating transportation/logistics for your care

The reality of today’s modern family runs counter to a patient-centric view that many companies hold as today’s standard. By taking a more authentic approach that mirrors the realities of a patient’s real-world context, we can generate awareness, action and, possibly, empathy.


Leave a Comment