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Jun 22, 2022

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Blog

Inside the Chronic Condition Patient Journey to Care

Patients with chronic conditions face a complicated path to treatment, and they want doctors who’ll work alongside them to find the right treatment.

Receiving the proper treatment can be a frustrating, winding, and lonely journey for people diagnosed with chronic conditions. However, today’s chronic condition sufferers take charge of their journey to care in new ways. Online healthcare resources have made finding information related to chronic conditions easier. This access has empowered patients to use their experience as a guide and research treatment options that might help them. As patients take a more active role in their journey to care, it becomes essential for pharmaceutical marketers to engage these patients at multiple points in that journey. Healthgrades can help.  

Insights from Patients with Chronic Conditions

Once a patient is diagnosed with a chronic condition like psoriasis or migraine, they might feel shocked, anxious, confused or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, relieved. According to 2021 research from Aspen Finn and Red Ventures Health, 80 percent of chronic condition sufferers remember experiencing a negative emotion at the time of their diagnosis.1 And getting to that diagnosis itself can be a long, painful, and discouraging process. 

Michelle Lee, a psoriasis patient, divulged the frustration she experienced when trying to make sense of her inflamed skin. “I went to see a dermatologist immediately but was misdiagnosed three times,” she shared on healthgrades.com. “First, I was told that it was an allergic reaction, and then I was told I had a skin disease called pityriasis. Finally, I got the correct answer: I had plaque psoriasis, as well as guttate psoriasis.” 

Another patient faced even more skepticism when trying to treat her debilitating migraines. “My pain was dismissed,” said Jaime Sanders. “I was told, as many women are, that it must be ‘all in my head.’ As a Black woman, I realized my doctors believed my pain did not exist because they carried the common, racist misperception that we do not feel pain.”

As a result, Sanders carries what she calls a “migraine binder” to every urgent care or emergency room visit containing treatment recommendations and medical history from her trusted neurologist. Lee and Sanders aren’t the only patients who have struggled to find clarity and acceptance as they navigate life with a chronic condition. According to a collaborative study between Aspen Finn and Red Ventures, 24 percent of respondents stated that it took them years to receive the correct diagnosis, leaving them “emotionally exhausted.”2

Chronic condition sufferers often have to advocate for themselves at different stages of the patient journey to receive proper care, and they want doctors willing to trust their experience as they navigate the rocky path to diagnosis and treatment.

Self-Advocacy is Becoming a Healthcare Standard

Let’s start with psoriatic arthritis as an example. Often there’s a distinct discrepancy between how patients and their doctors perceive the severity of a patient’s condition and the appropriate course of action. This discrepancy is prevalent among those with psoriatic arthritis in about 24 percent of cases.

According to a study by the Adelphi Disease Specific Programme, people with psoriatic arthritis also view their condition as a personal, lived experience, whereas rheumatologists might view the condition from a professional distance. This difference in perception can cause disagreements in the degree and type of treatment necessary to treat current symptoms, and many patients turn to self-advocacy fueled by extensive, proactive research. The proactive attitude also influences how chronic condition sufferers choose doctors or specialists—many of today’s patients are looking for a teammate, not a coach.

We also see this trend play out among those diagnosed with other types of chronic illnesses. According to a 2022 Red Ventures study, around 57 percent of patients with chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), migraines, and multiple sclerosis say they supplement their doctor’s information with their own research.3 But when chronic condition sufferers advocate for themselves and collaborate with their doctors, what are they searching for?

Prescription Drug Trends Among Patients with Chronic Conditions 

Personal research is an integral part of the patient journey to care. Around 46 percent of chronic condition patients look up possible treatment options on their own, with 44 percent saying they usually conduct research before an upcoming appointment with their doctor.4 Additionally, 47 percent of chronic condition sufferers are ready to ask their doctor or specialist about prescription medications they’ve seen advertised.5 Moreover, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, health professionals and patients both choose branded prescriptions over generic counterparts 30 percent of the time.

Pharmaceutical marketers have an opportunity to engage these high-value, low-funnel patients as they prepare for their appointment. In fact, chronic condition sufferers surveyed by Aspen Finn and Red Ventures Health specifically noted their doctors’ openness to experimenting with new medications as a hallmark of a positive HCP experience:6

  • “My neurologist and I had a heart-to-heart about available medications, and we decided together.” – Patient with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • “Medicine is constantly evolving, and I have a very open relationship with my neurologist. He is happy that I bring new meds to him. He can’t know everything!” – Patient with Migraines
  • “My current gastro is beyond words. He is amazing! I truly feel like we are partners. He understands my priorities and lifestyle, and we choose treatment plans that align with this.” – Patient with IBD

If pharmaceutical marketers can capture the interest of chronic condition sufferers who are actively researching care and are willing to talk to their doctors about branded medications, they can maximize marketing efficiency and drive scripts.

How Healthgrades Can Help

About half of Healthgrades users have multiple diagnosed conditions, 80 percent of which are chronic illnesses.7 As the number one site where doctors and patients connect, Healthgrades helps millions of chronic condition sufferers each year find the right doctor and prepare for their appointments. Healthgrades doctor profiles make it easy for patients to compare specialists to their peers based on their experience with specific diseases, conditions, or procedures. 

Studies show that frequency of treatment is one of the most important factors in determining health outcomes. With conditions that are hard to diagnose or cause symptoms that ebb and flow, having a specialist who’s familiar with the particulars of a chronic condition, knows what signs to look for and what treatments work best can make all the difference. Advertising with Healthgrades ensures your ads reach your target audience when treatment is top of mind. 

Healthgrades PatientConnect Hubs motivate those with chronic conditions to make appointments and prepare them for better doctor discussions with treatment-focused educational articles and videos, patient and physician stories, and interactive appointment guides. Guided Physician Search is integrated into every program to ensure consumers can make an appointment with a specialist when your brand is top of mind. Contact us today to learn how Healthgrades can help introduce your brand into the doctor-patient treatment conversation.

1 Qualitative research with 80 people living with a health condition conducted by Aspen Finn. May 2021.
2 Qualitative research with 80 people living with a health condition conducted by Aspen Finn. May 2021.
3 2022 Healthline Media Whole Person Health Surveys, N= 1,781 individuals diagnosed with a chronic condition (COPD, Eczema/Atopic Dermatitis, Migraine, Multiple Sclerosis, or Type 2 Diabetes).
4 2021 MARS Consumer Health Study – General US Population.
5 2021 MARS Consumer Health Study – General US Population.
6 Aspen Finn Chronic Conditions Exploration Comparison Report, June 2021.
7 Stax web survey and analysis, March 2017.