Can you Measure Hope?

Hope is like the elephant in the living room; it sits there and stares at us in gloating self-evidence. We marketeres see it, know it, and ignore it. What do we do instead? Why, we send mailings. We fill boxes in cavernous pick-and-pack warehouses full of calendars and collateral and magnets. We build better and better Web sites. We do e-CRM. And none of it, alone, seems to move the needle.

Nothing is wrong with any of that, because it does help patients. What, as pharma marketers, don't we get?

Two things, one functional, one emotional:

1. True surround sound support strategies where all the pieces have a role. This part takes a good team, and lots of hard work and the putting-aside of territorial instincts, but it is doable.

2. Hope. Now that is a hard one.

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Speaking to a psychologist who has been in practice nearly 40 years on the topic of why patients do not adhere to their medication.

"They lack hope," she said while sitting under a tree in the hot summer sun. "When someone starts something new — like a new medicine after a new diagnosis — they inevitably have to put other things aside. But usually these were things they loved or enjoyed. So, despite the best of intentions, two things occur:  frustration and a need for hope. The short-term and the long-term. Interestingly enough, the person or persons who actually help that person at those early stages deal with their frustrations, can also offer hope of sticking with it…and that sense of hope can keep people going."

I then asked the hard question: can you measure hope? It turns out that answer is "yes." There are two primary psychological indexes used to measure the degree of hopefulness in patients. The first is the Hertth Hope Index, developed by Faye Herth in 1989. Patients answer 12 questions such as "I feel scared about my future." on a 1-4 scale. There is also the Miller Hope Index. It's a lot like the Herth Index, except that it's based on 40 questions rather than a dozen.

Hope, like pornography, is something everyone knows when they see it, but is very hard to define. The best description we've seen, by psychologist C.R. Snyder is that Hope is a state of mind, in which there is both a will — a desire to work towards some kind of desirable future outcome, or at least believe in it, and a way — a clear path towards achieving that result. In the case of illness, the result, of course, is getting better

Pharma is Ithe provider of the way — the drug that will treat the symptom. However, the patient has to provide the will. How can we help them do this? With advertising that:

Reframes the situation in a more positive light.

Helps the patient appreciate, and focus on, the current moment.

Encourages socialization with patient groups, for example, that help the patient know that they're not alone.

Patients need a lot more than facts. They need to be shown both a pathway towards a better future, and given a set of tools, including support, that help them keep moving down that path. In many ways, good patient-level pharmacy data does that. And the entire grassroots advocacy/mentor work is about sharing peer-to-peer hope.

We certainly could do a better job "messaging" hope. And insert ourselves in the most human of processes — change.

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