Patient Psychology


Bonnie’s extensive clinical background helps her engage with healthcare professionals as an equal and patients as an understanding peer. Learn more about Bonnie’s commitment to qualitative research.



A global pharmaceutical company launched a novel product to manage a chronic pain condition, but prescription rates were lower than projected. The client had several hypotheses regarding prescription, with two leading theories emerging:

Medication cost was prohibitive/insurance coverage was problematic
Physicians awareness was low and/or they were not mentioning it to eligible patients
However, research into the discrepancy between projection and initial uptake hadn’t been conducted. The client didn’t want to move forward with marketing or outreach initiatives without understanding the underlying issues.



We needed understand the psychological state of the patient before assessing factors which may or may not compel them to consider the medication. With this emotional foundation, we could move on to explore the affects of potential tactical barriers such as cost.

To accomplish this, a robust qualitative study was needed. A nationwide sample of patients was recruited, all of whom had awareness of the medication, but most of whom chose to reject taking it.

To offer the client usable insights, we knew we’d also need to understand the prevalence of the barriers—emotional and tactical—identified in the qualitative study. To accomplish this, a quantitative study was designed for use after the qualitative research was complete.



Through conversations with patients, we identified complicated and deeply rooted psychological reasons for rejecting the medication. Very few patients hesitate because of any practical reasons such as cost. Rather, patients wait until they reach their own personal “breaking point” with their pain before accepting the need for the medication. The condition and treatment affect intimate aspects of a patient’s life, including libido and reproduction, so many choose to “suffer” with the pain. Similarly, many belive the potential for side effects are not worth the risk.

Physicians consistently offer the medication, but very few advocate for it or provide adequate guidance. They leave the decision entirely up to the patient, causing them to feel overwhelmed and frozen not only by the disease, but also how to move forward with it.


Analyze & Advise.

Increasing prescription rates is about more than overcoming tactical barriers. Rationally, patients understand the risks and rewards of medication but are not compelled to pursue treatment due to the personal nature of the disease and the emotion behind treatment decisions. Though every patient experience is unique, the qualitative research revealed common threads while the the quantitative portion of the study allowed us to better prioritize action by highlighting the prevelance of these experiences.

To increase patient uptake of the medication, several key recommendations were made to the client:

Revamp advertising to convey the patient’s worthiness of having pain relief – that they do not have to live with pain any longer. Bring their breaking point to them.
Reassure patients about side effects. Pain relief and improved quality of life are worth the risk of usually minor side effects. Make the risk/benefit case clear and easy to understand.
Develop a campaign to turn prescribing physicians into advocates. Help them see how the medication will improve patients’ lives.