By John Mitchell
If you are an innovator at a medical device or pharmaceutical company, you probably routinely interview, observe, and survey the clinicians that prescribe or administer your products—doctors, nurses, and technicians—as well as the non-clinical administrators who oversee the budgets that pay for them.
You know that understanding the needs and pain points of the professionals who use your products in the clinic, or direct patients to use them at home, is a key to successful innovation. But you can also benefit from market research to understand the patients who ultimately benefit from your products. More specifically, you may realize value from constructing a patient journey map.
Think of a customer journey map as your “GPS” for product development and customer experience design. A good map describes the typical paths customers take from when they first become customers, through a transaction with your company, and beyond. The map shows how customers seek to satisfy needs as they complete the tasks that mark the major stages in the journey.
A patient journey map describes how one type of customer—a person receiving healthcare—manages an acute or chronic condition. The map describes the different stages of care, beginning with the onset of symptoms, through diagnosis and therapy, and ending with either complete recovery or adjustment to a new way of life. At each stage, it shows tasks patients complete—some clinical and some personal—and the needs patients feel, whether medical, emotional, financial, or relational. A good patient journey map is exhaustive and comprehensive, leaving out no part of care.
Patient journey mapping is an increasingly valuable tool for healthcare companies of all types and sizes, for many applications. Three benefits stand out as particularly compelling:
- First, patient journey maps can highlight the obstacles patients face in accessing care. Often, patients are unaware of the connection between symptoms and underlying conditions, or of the existence of potential therapies. Other times, real barriers—both tangible and intangible—stand in the way. A patient journey map can help you understand how patients get over the initial hurdle of seeking a diagnosis, perhaps illuminating opportunities to educate patients directly and through clinician partners.
- Second, journey maps can define how to deliver a better patient experience during treatment. For many conditions, especially chronic or life-altering diseases such as diabetes or cancer, patients navigate a challenging course that includes not only their medical care, but also changes to their lifestyle, financial condition, personal relationships, and emotional well-being. Whether you produce an OTC device that patients purchase themselves, or a surgical device that patients never see, you may benefit from a sharper picture of the experience of your ultimate consumers—patients and their loved ones—uncovering latent market opportunities and sparking creativity.
- Third, journey maps can identify ways to support patients after treatment ends, during recovery and maintenance. Ongoing life with a new medical condition or following major surgery often requires compliance with a broad regimen of drugs and behavioral modifications, as well as adaptation to new constraints on ability and lifestyle (and associated emotions). Exploring how patients manage and process their lives post-treatment may lead you to innovative products and services that improve long-term health outcomes and build more favorable word-of-mouth for patients considering a similar course of treatment for the same condition.
Whether you are part of a product development, marketing, or customer experience team at a hospital, a device manufacturer, a pharma company, or a health insurer, patient journey mapping should be part of your toolbox of customer research. If you would like to learn more about journey mapping, read our comprehensive guide or contact one of our experts today.