Enhancing Patient Profiles to Support Personalized Care

Patient profiles can help healthcare professionals understand their patients better based on
their personal issues, thus helping them feel more confident and comfortable with their treatment experience.

Patient profiles are a tried-and-true marketing tool for educating HCPs about brand benefits and helping them visualize actual patients who are appropriate for a certain treatment.
They usually focus on physical characteristics that can help doctors identify these patients. But they could deliver much more value by presenting perspectives on a patient’s mindset based on personal issues such as gender, education level, and level of healthcare literacy, among others.

More than 15 years ago, my father was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). My family’s experience caring for him exposed real communication gaps that enhanced profiles could have helped close. My mother was left to navigate the complexities of treatment options along with advanced medical terminology used by various HCPs and payers. Sadly, my father, a retired firefighter, passed away at the age of 51 without making it to the final stage of his treatment, a bone marrow transplant.

My mother remembers few details except for how she felt— confused, overwhelmed, and helpless. An enhanced patient profile may have helped guide more effective conversations between HCPs and my parents at a time of enormous stress. They could have leveraged a range of patient characteristics that might have shaped meaningful interactions among HCPs, patients, and caregivers.

For instance, a traditional profile might include a statement such as “Sally likes to garden with her grandchild.” By contrast, an enhanced profile would provide more meaningful information to help HCPs have deeper, more relevant conversations with their patients and their families about their disease states and treatment options. It might state that “Sally is an African American who is wary of the healthcare system as it took over five visits to various professionals before being correctly diagnosed with a rare disease.” These insights may help HCPs identify the right questions to ask Sally to help her feel more confident in her diagnosis and treatment plan.

An enhanced profile may have helped in my father’s case by delving deeper into the story to help HCPs identify potential communication pain points. My father was a high school graduate working a blue-collar job. His AML diagnosis came suddenly, which caused my mother to panic. He had been in good health up until the AML onset, which meant that he and my mother had limited experience with the complex dynamics of the healthcare system.

To address these challenges, today’s patient profiles should include patient characteristics such as education level, and/or lack of understanding of the healthcare system. A patient and his or her family may not have time to research treatment options. They may not know what questions to ask or how to get the answers they need. Without the right information and preparation, patients are often left to place blind faith in HCPs, which can contribute to feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and helpless. They become passive players in their own treatment journey.

Enhanced profiles can also encourage honesty and partnership in conversations between HCPs and patients. Studies show that patients want to understand their prognosis and participate in treatment decisions.1,2. These profiles can empower HCPs to be upfront with patients about their outcomes and risks. This can be especially important for rare diseases where care teams may not be as familiar with the important details about what the patient should expect.

Emerging Trends in Patient Profiles

Here is a quick overview of some current and emerging trends and best practices:
• Digitization In the near future, digital patient profiles will become more common, which will help HCPs by providing a more dynamic, customizable format that can incorporate various backgrounds, mindsets and physical attributes. This could allow the inclusion of a range
of socio-economic backgrounds and journeys so that HCPs can approach conversations effectively depending on the type of patient.
• Showcasing actual patients More brands are using real patients
to represent the journey from symptom identification to diagnosis to treatment decision making and treatment management. What audiences care about most is authenticity. When appropriate
in a disease state, medical communicators should consider identifying real patients to give the most authentic voice to a situation.
• Format considerations Medical communicators must regularly pressure-test the contents and even the format of patient profiles.

For instance, we might design shorter content using chapters and related topic-specific content. This can provide easily digestible information to help HCPs master the right messages for different situations and patients.

As healthcare communicators, we have an important role in enabling HCPs to have the most personalized conversations with patients for more effective care. Our industry’s
educational resources have improved significantly in the past 15 years. But it’s important to recognize the emotional impact of receiving a serious, life- changing diagnosis from a doctor3 and design our tools to help HCPs share information in the simplest, most insightful and caring ways.

By digging deeper in patient profiles, we can make a bread-and-butter communication tool more effective and in the short but critical time available for HCP interactions with patients. As a result, enhanced profiles can reduce stress for patients and families and potentially improve outcomes.

1 Johnston FM, Beckman M., Navigating difficult conversations, J Surg Oncol. 2019; 120(1): 23-29
2 MacKenzie AR, Lasota M. Bringing life to death: the need for honest, compassionate and effective end-of-life conversations. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2020:40:1-9. Doi:10.1200/ EDBK_279767
3 Sekeres MA, Gilligan TD. How much do you want to know about your cancer? Published June 1, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2022 https://archive.nytimes.com/well.blogs.nytimes.
com/2016/06/01/how-much-do-you-want-to-know-about-your- cancer/
  • Christine Schwall-Pecci

    Christine is Senior Vice President, Medical Director, Medical Strategy Scientific Affairs at BGB Group in New York. A curious, outgoing scientist, she connects her research background and training to pharmaceutical strategy and development of physician- and patient- accessible information.She can be reached at cschwall@bgbgroup.com.


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