Engaging Voices From Down the Path

By October 15, 2008Uncategorized

Something we are constantly striving for here at TrueHealth, on behalf of our clients, is patient engagement with a phama company's product and/or brand. Tara Parker-Pope's column today in the New York Times, Well, has done an outstanding job of this with a series called Patient Voices. It strikes exactly the note we, as marketers, are trying to hit.

The premise is incredibly simple. Eight patients with chronic diseases simply talk about their lives and their diseases for two minutes. It's recorded, and a few photos of the patient are put up on the screen. And that's it.

It's powerful because it's real. In the piece on eating disorders, you hear a 17 year-old high school girl from Ohio talking about the constant struggle anorexia has been for her. She has a heavy Midwestern accent, and sounds like a completely normal teenage girl who just happens to be talking about a disease that might kill her. Then you hear Kristin Haglund, also blonde, also from the Midwest, describing the same downward spiral in the confident, modulated voice of someone who's spent a lifetime on stage because she was Miss America. Same story, different voices.

These voices have an incredible immediacy and impact. I have never had Parkinson's disease, or pancreatic cancer, or any of the other chronic diseases these speakers portray. Yet, hearing someone speak about them firsthand — openly, candidly, seriously — opens an incredible window into what these illnesses do to both the patients, and their caregivers.

In another vignette, Lisa Bartlein, from Marina Del Rey, California, talks briefly about spending a year caring for her brother, who had, and ultimately died from, pancreatic cancer. She's sparing, and rather unsentimental about it, and simply from the way she constructs her sentences and the things she chooses to say, it's clear that helping her brother battle this illness has made her a very, very tough woman.

If I were a fellow patient, these voices would remind me that I was not alone, that other people had walked, and were walking, the same path I was. We would have something important — perhaps the most important thing in our lives — in common. That, folks, is engagement, and that is what gets patients to stay on therapy, to hang in there with their illness, and to have the best possible chance of staying as healthy as possible. And all it takes is two minutes of talking.