High Plains, CO — Dr. John M. Westfall, a professor of family medicine and director of the High Plains Research Network at the University of Colorado, has committed to harnessing the patient perspective in order to better communicate his prescribed care.

It all began with his investigation into the lack of action his patients were taking on his recommendation to be screened for colorectal cancer. To solve the problem, he decided not to enlist the help of his peers; he went straight to the source. Dr. Westfall took a page out of the marketer’s playbook and visited the homes of his patients, shared their table and their pie, and consulted them about what barriers there were to taking the screening. When the problem is failing communication with patients, who better to consult than the patients themselves to “turn complex guidelines into locally relevant messages?”

The patients he saw then began to take action and formed an advisory council whose task was to spread the news about getting a screening through word-of-mouth. Their work increased colorectal cancer screening in their locality of rural eastern Colorado by 10% and counting. The process was dubbed “boot camp translation” and has since been applied to several other medical conditions in multiple communities, with patients translating medical evidence to be relevant locally and empowering individuals to be able to converse about these difficult subjects.

Why it matters:

While a focus group or ethnography study like the one Dr. Westfall embarked on is not a new tactic for us, he may be on to something. Our customers want to feel empowered and better understand their patient population at a local level. Providing more of this information could be a great value-add for our physicians.

Dr. Westfall said it best himself:

“Patients are key to translating into plain English the stilted, often arcane language of evidence-based recommendations. Equally important, organizations like the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute are changing the culture of research by getting patients involved in the process earlier and earlier, even contributing to the design of clinical trials. This helps researchers make sure they’re addressing the right problems, asking the right questions, and studying the right diseases.”

About the Author:

As Strategist of Innovation, Drew is charged daily with championing innovative thinking and doing. Drew is part of a global team that leads new innovative ideas that attract different advocates among existing and potential brands that are shared across all agency partners. Drew is backed by over 16 years of brand, sales and marketing experience with Fortune 500 companies such as Progressive and Nationwide Insurance as well as Founder & President of his own healthcare insurance agency for 6 years. Most recently Drew was part of the agency team that launched Briviact for UCB, Foundation Medicine as well as key roles with Eli Lilly Oncology and Johnson & Johnson.