Exploring the world of hypertension patients in the Heart to Heart community

Consumer Consulting Boards have for some time been buzzing in the market research industry as the way of connecting consumers with brands and ‘bringing’ the consumer into the boardroom as a company’s most important consultant. But did you know that, at InSites Consulting, we also have Patient Consulting Boards?
For Merck, we set up a 3-week community to explore and understand the world of 55 hypertension (high blood pressure) patients. Want to know how we did it and uncovered a plethora of rich insights? Read on to find out how it helped Merck to get an in-depth understanding of the hypertension patient and ultimately to develop new relevant services.

The ‘Heart to Heart’ Consulting Board

To find new patient insights and translate them into actionable and relevant services, we set up a three-week community called ‘Heart to Heart‘. In order to make participants share intimate and sensitive information about themselves and their medical condition, building up a trust relationship with the moderator was required. Thus, ethnography in the form of a diary blog with one-on-one contact with the moderator became the centrepiece of the community.
Three goals had to be reached by conducting the diary blog:

  1. get immersed in the life of the patients: who are they and what is a typical day in their live?
  2. explore typical hypertension moments: when are they typically confronted with hypertension?
  3. discover routines in hypertension moments; how do they deal with their hypertension moments and what are routines in their life?

For 10 consecutive days we followed the 55 men and women suffering from hypertension through daily tasks. Besides sharing personal experiences and opinions and uploading numerous photos, the blog also turned the participants into our ‘eyes and ears’. One task for example invited them to interview a family member or someone else close to them to give us, researchers, an even more comprehensive understanding.

Exploring the world of the hypertension patient: ‘My world, my words (and photos)’

Underscoring the success of online research methods which allow patients and consumers to participate whenever and wherever they want, the enthusiastic participants did not lose any time in giving us a glimpse into their life and everyday dealings with hypertension. Writing long diary posts and sharing photos… it was the first time in many years for most of them to actively think about and reflect on their medical condition and the role of hypertension in their lives.
It led to interesting insights, for example about the routines patients develop to maintain medicine compliance. Illustrated in the blog by photos showing their medicine cabinets and other locations in their homes, we discovered that hypertension medication is never kept in the proper medicine cabinet. Instead, it is kept in easy-to-reach places where it cannot be forgotten. The longitudinal character of the blog also allowed us to come up with a patient segmentation, based among others on a patient typology and different routines for weekdays and weekends.

Results and impact

By making the diary blog the starting point of the community and immersing ourselves into the lives of hypertension patients, we could develop further insights and service concepts in the final discussion stage of the ‘Heart to Heart‘ community. Ten days of blogging resulted in more than 800 unique blog posts, including 250 tagged pictures. Furthermore, the blog contributed to uncovering 7 (unmet) needs and frictions across the patient journey and ultimately 6 service concept solutions for Merck. The final and most important result: both clients and hypertension patients were happy and uniformly agreed on the success of the blog community.

“This methodology helps us to truly understand patient needs. The active involvement of the participants generated a lot of valuable insights.”
Nico Smets – Business Unit Manager Fertility & Endocrinology, CardioMetabolic Care & General Medicine @ Merck n.v./s.a. & Laetitia Pinton (project manager) – Product Manager Fertility & Endocrinology, , CardioMetabolic Care & General Medicine @ Merck n.v./s.a.
“I would like to ask you to give your congratulations to the sponsor for this successful community. I really want to call it a successful initiative for hypertension patients. I truly enjoyed participating in this project. A big thank you!”
Community participant H.

Want to find out more on how our Life Scieces & Health care teams helps clients such as Pfizer, GSK, TEVA Pharmaceuticals, UCB, Merck and many others? Join our Health Smartees Webinar series. In the upcoming months, we’ll bring bite-size real-life cases to you, co-created with customers such as Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition, Merck Serono and UCB.

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