News Article

Patient Journey: Holistic Vision, Focused Strategy

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 15:39

Our industry dedicates huge financial effort and countless working hours to healthcare. Still, one forgets on occasion that health is more than a theoretical, economic and medical concept. At the center of our ideas is an extremely important person: the patient. We understand that the process of living through an illness involves a doctor and market conditions. All the same, we cannot assume that understanding the market and understanding medicine automatically means that we can see illness from the perspective of the patient. For this reason, we seek first-hand information directly from people in treatment. At IMS Primary Intelligence, we took on the obligation of focusing on and revising the concept of health from the perspective of the patient. “Patient Journey” is the expression of our hope to contextualize illness in all phases of patient experience.


Firstly, we must understand that every illness involves a cultural context. Living with diabetes in Mexico is very different to living with diabetes in France, for instance. Access to medical treatment and services is different in both countries, and so is the way in which illness is experienced. Social constructs oblige us to revise our entire perspective. It is curious to discover, for instance, that a Mexican patient will “socialize” illnesses in particular ways. Male diabetes patients tend to hide their illness for fear of their masculinity being called into question. Homemade remedies are also an integral part of the Mexican response to illness.

Breast cancer and diabetes are therefore the two diseases we have chosen to focus on, as they are the most relevant national health priorities. We aim to discover patterns of behavior and assimilation of the two diseases, both of which impact the doctor’s approach to the patient and the course of action taken. One of the keys to the exercise is to understand that the patient is more than a diagnosis, a medicine, or a statistic. The concept of the “patient” is a complicated matrix made up of social contexts, anxieties, family, and emotional needs. Much of this data is from a source doctors could never replicate.


Subsequently, we must understand the patient’s perception of their own illness, what information they make use of, and where they found this data. At a basic level, this means understanding what factors result in a patient going directly to a point of sale or to a doctor’s surgery. This phase of patient experience is full of myths and preconceptions that block access to medical attention. Both the form and content of communication must therefore be tailored to the patient. We have treated patients who are in denial, having lived under the impression that they “thought this would never happen.”

The third priority involves dealing with the patient’s reaction to diagnosis, and, above all, the needs that emerge in this type of ‘mourning’ process. While the pharmaceutical industry does provide patients with information intended to help the doctor, we need to understand that the patients’ main needs at that moment are emotional. They do not think of themselves as a patient but of their position within a nuclear family. We also see a kind of voluntary misinformation, since most patients are not prepared to accept the consequences of what their illness means in real terms, and process this data in such a way that delays their own consent to medical intervention.


A discussion of the treatment process naturally covers economic implications and patients’ understanding. In the case of a patient living with diabetes, we must examine if the patient’s dietary and hygiene habits change to reflect this new reality. Often, taking a tablet seems like enough of an intervention, leading to a relaxed – even careless – attitude to their health. Patients have trouble integrating medical treatment into healthy living habits. We see a real opportunity here to develop medical tools that result in integrated, across-the-board care for patient health.

To date, we are taking steps to understand the stages of long-term chronic or acute illnesses. For hospitals to truly follow these stages, they must take stock of the patient’s economic, emotional, and social life. The Patient Journey includes two key factors in its analysis, one being the stakeholders who influence and intervene in patient’s information and decision-making, as they deal with the needs specific to each phase. Understanding all of these factors allows us to design effective strategies to bring us closer to the patient in an effective way. However, we cannot afford to leave the human factor out of health treatment. The patient turns to us for guidance and they are undoubtedly one of our most important, substantial sources of information.