I recently attended a lecture by UK psychologist, Rob Horne. He specializes in understanding  medical related behavior and why patients and physicians interactions occur the way they do.  He shared insight on how people adhere to the advice and directions given in medical consultations.  Fascinating research has led him to a frameworks that I think can be used in other aspects of storytelling, motivation and pursuasion.

The first framework out lines two barriers that are key to overcome so that they follow medical direction. Physical barriers can prevent people adhering to medical direction and  perceptual barriers which includes motivation and enthusiasm to carry out medical advice.  So to enable better adherence to medical advice both barriers should be examined. Its amazing to see from this research that life extending HAART therapy is not adhered to by up to 30%  of patients. The same is seen with CF patients. Even though physical barriers can be lowered by making pills easier to swallow  or packages easier to open, the perception of the patient viewed through needs and concerns still need to be addressed.

This was a lightening bolt moment for me. If the dialog between patient and physician doesn’t address the needs and concerns of patients then the outcome of even the best therapy will be reduced. This led me to think that need stories and concern stories could help patients get better outcomes. So it appears that patients balance out these two dimensions. If patients needs are  high but concerns are low this can lead to patients failing to adhere to advice.  It appears that patients tell themselves stories about why there concerns are low and why its OK not to do what the physician told them to.

If patients are told a great story that  lower concerns and raise needs, it appears that these patients complete therapy as agreed with their physician. Understanding these stories then is as key to better patient outcomes as the medicine its self. In building great pharma brands these stories need to be understood and build in to the fabric of communications.

Of course this goes beyond pharmaceutical branding. All people have needs and concerns about purchases and using brands. If there inner concerns are not understood and brand stories don’t address these two dimension then usage will be transient at best or people will choose other brands. In both healthcare and consumer worlds people have both physical barriers and more importantly perceptual barriers to using them. People play stories in their minds to lower the relevance of a brand either by telling stories that support the low need and to raise the concern about purchasing.

Building great brands may also now require stories that engage people in need and concerns dialog.