When it comes to their health, we’d like to think patients make decisions rationally. It would certainly be easier for healthcare brands if patients based their decisions on data and statistics because we know how to understand that thought process. In fact, most marketing research is designed specifically to interpret the rationale behind patients’ decisions. But in reality, our health decisions are more often driven by core emotional needs that we long to satisfy, regardless of logic (whether we realize it or not). Here’s a real-world example of this type of decision making in action and how effectively defining those emotional needs can not only impact behavior and change decision making in a brand’s favor, but also create better outcomes for patients which is ultimately what’s most important.
A Real-World Example That Defies the Data
Insight Consulting Group (ICG) was asked to help our client understand why some skin cancer patients have a ‘let’s see what happens’ attitude after initial treatment even though there is plenty of data supporting the fact that secondary treatment can help prevent recurrence of Melanoma.
Our research discovered that when initially diagnosed, patients rate and rank the seriousness of their form of cancer as a way to establish for themselves how they feel about their diagnosis. Then, patients often compare their cancer to other forms of cancer (Stage III lung vs. Stage III Melanoma) in regard to treatment and prognosis to get a feel for their path forward. Even though patients might perceive lung cancer as more serious, and the mental comparison to their form of cancer helps them manage their feelings, we know this cognitive comparison is dangerous to the patient due to skin cancer’s potential to be serious and unpredictable.
With patients diagnosed with advanced stages of Melanoma (stages III-V), treatment may likely include surgical removal of the tumor along with a sentinel node biopsy to determine if the cancer has spread to the nearest lymph node. Although the risk of recurrence at 5 years for stage III Melanoma is high, the use of treatment after resection (surgical removal of the tumor) to help delay or prevent the recurrence of Melanoma for patients is only about 80%. Our research insights clearly indicated that the identified emotional needs of the patient were overriding the data in terms of treatment decisions, as well as impacting the success of patients. This is a prime example of how core emotional needs are pivotal in discovering opportunity for successful outcomes for patients and brands.
An Evidence-Based Framework for Discovering Core Emotional Needs
If we make decisions based on how we feel and we then later may incorporate what we think and know, market researchers should ground their methods using a research discovery framework that’s customized and based in Social Science. Our approach empowers and focuses on understanding how core emotional needs can be uniquely met by a brand to impact patient behaviors and decision-making.
Core emotional needs of patients include:
In this specific real-world example, implementing a discovery process based on emotional needs along with expertise in qualitative and ethnographic research may lead to insights and understanding of the physician and patient experiences and highlight the moments that matter and lead to a decision for or against a secondary treatment
Our hypothesis here is that there are psychological forces at play that determine how these patients deal with diagnosis, treatment and the option of secondary treatment. Patients may not be embracing this treatment because of:
- Misplaced hope
- Perception of how their core emotional needs would or would not be met
By discovering why patients feel the way they feel (using laddering techniques) we then identify the barriers and drivers of their treatment decision. With these insights, the marketing team can align their brand’s attributes to address unmet core emotional needs and fulfill their value proposition. In this case, the unmet needs of self-expression and control were driving their defensive response to secondary treatment, the patient just wanted to move on and not be reminded of their diagnosis.
Discovering how to uniquely meet core emotional needs relevant to your brand or therapy can help you achieve commercial success and meaningful outcomes as well. To learn how we can deliver your empathetic edge, contact Principal, Chris Schnars, at CSchnaars@ICGImpact.com