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PART TWO: The Patient Journey – Get Swept Away

HOW WE FLOW WITH PATIENTS: Multi-modal/Multi-Touchpoint Qualitative

Over the years, we have employed just about every qualitative methodology available to researchers, from traditional interviews, focus groups, and dyads to online communities and mobile ethnography. While we recognize that each methodology has a place and a value, we have also observed that something special happens in patient journey research when we combine methodologies in a multi-modal, multi-touchpoint approach.


You'll remember from Part One of this blog series, that it is best to view the patient journey as a dynamic and ever-changing 'waterfall.' When we think of it this way, we sense there is more to the experience (or journey, if you will) than what is on the surface. The rushing water captivates us but does not tell the story of what lies beneath. This means your approach to understanding the patient journey must similarly flow and get beyond the surface to get the whole story We know that the closer we can be to how people think, process, feel, and respond, the deeper we get to understand their journey through their disease state and treatment.

The multi-modal, multi-touchpoint approach combines more than one methodology with the same patients (and their physicians and caregivers) over time. Combining methodologies provides a better chance to connect with participants in their space and time, thus getting us closer to their personal reality. Each opportunity to communicate with the participant allows us to peel back the layers to get deeper insights that matter so much to providing medicines and services that change lives.

Why Multi-modal/Multi-Touchpoint Approaches?


Multi-modal, multi-touchpoint qualitative research should be part of your patient journey tool kit for three reasons.

1. Different methodologies yield different responses.

Face-to-face communication is dramatically different from computer-mediated communication (using tools like Zoom). In face-to-face communication, you must pay attention and process what the other person says, feels, and means. You also have nonverbal cues that help you determine meaning, interest, and intent. You must match the methodologies you use to the types of information you will need to progress through the patient journey.


2. Time matters.

We often ask patients to reflect on an earlier experience or retrieve a memory in marketing research. How memories are stored and how we access them should influence the methodologies we choose and the ones we decide to mix within a project. Some methodologies require participants to react immediately, while others give them more time to react.


Memories are always colored with an awareness of the current situation, especially inpatient journey research. Sometimes, new information and suggestions may become incorporated into old memories over time. Further, memories are stored in different brain parts connected by neural networks, and the strength of those pathways determines how quickly memory can be recalled. Additionally, distraction at the time of memory recall can slow or impair the retrieval process and thus change the memory.

3. Layers have more depth.

Different methodologies, either with the same or different patients, reveal layers of insights. These layers:

  • Facilitate safety and use Active Empathy to build trust so that participants and researchers get to know one another and can get to the really difficult questions to get deeper and richer insights (See Part One of this series for more information on Active Empathy)

  • Be sensitive to the patients' time and need for reflection, allowing them to respond in different ways at different times while maximizing the insight from each participant.

  • Allow you to see the answer to a question through different lenses (i.e., different approaches yield different responses). And provides mixed media that facilitates developing and creating deliverables with impact. (More about this in part 3 of this blog series)


A Multi-modal/Multi-Touchpoint Patient Journey Case Study


  •  A pharmaceutical company developing a new treatment for metastatic cancer patients needed better to understand the patients' experience with current treatments to identify unmet needs related to the impact of treatment and quality of life.

  • Research needed to be both comprehensive and detailed, which presented a challenge when considering traditional qualitative methodologies.

  • The solution to this challenge was to utilize our multi-modal, multi-touchpoint approach. 

  • Step One: 20 US Patients - Multi-modal interactions (journal, photos, video blogs, discussions etc.) in an online community.

  • Step Two:  10 of the previous participants continue with 60-minute telephone interviews along with 7 US Caregivers

  • Step Three: 5 of those Step Two patients participate in a 4-hour in-home immersive interview

  • Note:  When doing global research we modify this approach as needed to fit compliance regulations and cultural needs.

  • This research identified and exposed a consistency across the patient experience that highlighted the challenges patients face during treatment(s) and the needs that exist. Focusing on both challenges and needs allowed us to highlight opportunities for new, emerging treatments to positively impact the patient's quality of life, providing direction to our client on potential areas of focus for future clinical trials and or trial endpoints.

"Harper's iterative approach (online community, followed by individual interviews, followed by in-home immersion) builds strong connections between the participants and the moderators. These connections enable much deeper, more complete, and more personal insights than traditional methods that can only scratch the surface of a topic or experience. The insights developed with Harper Global will impact multiple aspects of asset development."  — CLIENT MARKET RESEARCH LEADER

Employing Active Empathy with each participant across multiple touchpoints and methodologies provides key insights that will have a lasting impact and change the lives of patients facing metastatic cancer. Using multiple methodologies over time allows the growth of trust with the research team, yielding more profound and personal insights to guide client decision-making.


Continuing our blog series on getting swept away with the Patient Journey, check back for our next blog, which discusses how we do this with Deliverables.


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