February 2018




Applying Behavioral Science & Cultural Anthropology to Map a Patient Illness Journey


In her book "Illness as Metaphor" (1978) Susan Sontag writes “everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place”. The journey through that other place, whether it be an acute illness or injury, chronic disease, or anything in between, can be winding and fraught with emotions, both good and bad. And while on this journey, patients are faced with critical decisions that shape their path: when to access healthcare services, which services to access, and whether to accept a doctor’s suggested course of treatment.


Therefore, understanding patients’ transactional journeys, from diagnosis to doctor’s visits, to selecting and filling prescriptions, is an important first step in understanding how and when to connect with them. But as our clients already know, understanding only how the patient moves through the healthcare system is not enough. Illness often has a ripple effect, touching not only those who are sick, but their family, friends, and other loves ones as well. The impacts of illness are felt not only physically, but in so many other domains of a person’s life: psychologically, spiritually financially, socially, and professionally. Truly connecting with patients requires and understanding their journey also requires a deep understanding of the richness and complexity of their experiences.


At Fresh Squeezed Ideas, we access this complexity by drawing on both Behavioral Science and Cultural perspectives. This allows us to capture the full dimension of patient experiences and identify critical areas of vulnerability and key decision points. Our integrated thinking also means that we can uncover and understand the social pressures, emotional drivers/barriers, and the decision-making biases that impact the individual’s behavior along the way. The output is a rich Patient Illness Journey Map that can be printed and workshopped to identify patient needs that can be met with strategic tactics.


Click the image below to learn more about our approach to Patient Journeys!




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