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Connected moments: capturing patient experience

Capturing an experience when it occurs can give a more accurate and immediate recall

connected moments alarm clock 

The use of digital technology for gathering and understanding business intelligence may be nothing new, but the way in which it allows you to capture 'in the moment' insight is benefiting from ever greater accuracy.

Following and understanding patient behaviour at the time of interaction, for example, is proving to be a 'game-changer', enhancing both the accuracy and the richness of the data collected - which was previously gathered solely using traditional techniques.

It's not just the ability instantly to collect rich behavioural and attitudinal information, where and when it happens. We have maximised the effectiveness of incorporating data digitally via mobile with data collected using more 'classical methodologies', and we now have the ability to connect these 'moments in time' to give us an augmented view of the focus of our study, whether that be patient, prescriber or payer.

At the end of last year, around 40% of the global population had access to the internet, and over one billion people had access to a smartphone or mobile device, such as a tablet. In fact in the first quarter of 2013, more iPhones were sold globally than children born. Our insatiable desire for personal connectivity means that now these devices are becoming the way the world's population truly connects to one another.

Smartphones and tablets are proving to be the technologies with the fastest-ever adoption curve. It is not just the prevalence of devices; the 'stickiness' of that technology, our obsession to always be on, makes US consumers check their mobiles a staggering 110 times a day. Never before has a new technology become such an integral part of our lives so quickly.

Mobile devices can create a personal space for a very honest reponse

In a way we have almost become the 21st century equivalent of Pavlov's Dogs: we have a conditioned response to the beep, whistle or vibration that compels us into an almost instantaneous reaction to check our devices and remain connected to our digital circle of friends and acquaintances.

But it goes beyond this: increasingly we observe that people prefer to make their connections via a mobile rather than a fixed device. We see this with our own online community platform, eVillage, where the proportion of traffic coming via mobile devices has doubled in the last six months alone.

Brand communication dynamics
While using this technology to gather one-to-one insights about behaviour is a massive step forward in research, understanding how people use digital media and technology among themselves - whether that means conversations between brands and healthcare professionals (HCPs), HCPs and patients, or simply each group conversing among themselves - gives us an additional opportunity to understand the changing dynamics of client brand communications.

Though digital data collection produces lots of quantitative data, we are now uncovering richer veins of qualitative data by using mobile for online communities, allowing us the ability to observe and record interactions between patients or HCPs in an environment in which they are at ease.

We have also observed the growth in usage and of health-related conversations on digital channels such as Twitter, where over 152,000 tweets a day are now created by doctors, nurses, pharmacists and consultants according to Creation HealthCare.

One particular healthcare issue is the amount of online conversations that happen in private online communities which can't (ethically, at least) be accessed by traditional social media monitoring tools. Our approach is to try to recreate or 'incubate' these kinds of conversation among similar audiences in our own community platforms, recreating the circumstances and topics to enable our clients to understand patient and professional needs alike.

Over half the world is expected to access the digital world using smartphones or tablets

Naturally, mobile plays a huge role in this. Over 80% of Facebook's one billion-plus users interact with the site daily using a mobile device. Facebook, as the most widely used site (with over 31 million active users in the UK alone) has now facilitated the idea in people's minds of sharing in-depth information with their friends, colleagues and peers.

Mobiles have become an intrinsic part of our lives - we eat, drive, sleep and dream with them by our side. We have observed extremely high (and fast) response rates on projects that we would not have been able replicate using other data collection methods.

Mobile devices also create a personal space for a very honest response - we keep our phones literally close to our chests, lock them with PINs, and rarely share them even with our most trusted loved ones. Contrast this with desktops which might be shared with others (in the family or in a practice), or talking on a telephone in a busy surgery, office or home.

Capturing experiences
Now it is a question of harnessing that trusted technology to provide a richness of data. A key part of that is the ability to capture an 'in the moment' experience as soon as it has occurred, giving a more accurate and immediate recall.

This means that you can capture accurate and rich data, complementing the long-term recall we traditionally seek. This immediacy enables you to understand better what respondents have just done, or are doing right now. 'In the moment' responses have enabled us to find out not just what people plan to do that day, but by revisiting them later on, we can see the disconnect between their intentions and their actual behaviour. For example, in a recent study we gained valuable insight into how a given condition might have affected a person's ability to go about his or her daily life by comparing two 'connected moments' from the start and end of the day.

connected moments stats

This ability to track and monitor behaviour will only be further enhanced as new digital technologies are adopted. New wearable technologies, new diagnostic apps and devices that are there to help with compliance can all potentially help us understand what is happening in particular treatment areas.

And, of course, mobile devices are no longer just phones - they are also cameras, video cameras, voice recorders and much more. This opens up a variety of possibilities in the type of insights we can collect, bringing to life the participants' experiences and giving us better insight into what these individuals are truly like and how they behave.

It is this ability to capture this rich, in-the-moment information which makes it so vivid. Video, photo and voice content allows you to see and hear what the other person sees and hears, and it allows the sharing of multimedia content which others in the community can respond to.

This is why online communities such as Facebook are as much about the pictures as the words, and we can learn from this when we create our own online communities for business intelligence purposes. They enable the kind of bouncing of ideas between members of a community which creates the environment for co-creation and ideas generation. They are integral to creating those 'connected moments'.

Making sense of online connections
So how do healthcare businesses start to understand these connections, these online communities which are creating these connected moments? It is important that we start using social media monitoring, as well as creating our own online communities that we can curate, to find out the impact and the influence that new digital and social media channels are having.

This is not a question of putting something in place simply because it is new and shiny; it is important to be pragmatic about what it can and cannot achieve. We should only use mobile or digital when it can really add value to a project. But to do that, we first have to understand when it does indeed add value.

Often, these kind of techniques will be best when used in combination with other, perhaps more classic methods. So it could be the traditional face-to-face in-depth interview to get a good idea of recall, combined with an additional app-based diary to understand what is happening in the moment. Then add a community-based connection to understand the conversations which follow on from that, and you start to get a more complete, richer, holistic picture.

Digital works best when it complements rather than replaces other approaches, and it is important to pick your project carefully to ensure that digital is the best answer - just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should!

That said, over half the world's population is expected to access and interact with the digital world - and a big part of that is digital communities - using smartphones or tablets. These are your customers, so there can be no doubt that digital channels and online communities have a major role to play in the way you reach, communicate with, and understand them.

Ultimately, healthcare professionals or patients are also human beings and consumers, who have the need to communicate with their peers and share their beliefs and behaviours with those all around them - and increasingly that means those with whom they connect via digital media and technology.

Understanding the 'connected moments' which influence the choices they make increasingly means understanding the triggers which lead to those moments - and then using those very same connections to shape the way that we as an industry interact in a more meaningful and productive way with our customers.

Article by
Dan Brilot and Dave Bostock

Dan Brilot is digital director and Dave Bostock is director of digital innovation at Cello Health Insight. They can be contacted via (or on Twitter @brilotd) and

26th September 2014

From: Sales, Marketing



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