Kenneth Thorlton

Once developed, the patient journey can take on many forms. Bringing it to life can help users understand areas of opportunity throughout the treatment experience

Patient Journey

The Patient Journey:
The process and research behind the path

A research approach to uncover barriers and motivators throughout the disease experience in order to help change behavior, improve a healthcare experience, and positively impact treatment results

Visually mapping out a patient's journey from diagnosis to treatment initiation to long-term medication compliance can help uncover truths within the health care experience that bring about new sources of treatment innovation for both patients and professionals.

Upfront research is crucial in the process and may include:

 > Literature reviews

 > Social Media mining

 > Stakeholder interviews

 > Moderated discussion boards

 > Insight Circles

 > Ethnographies

Insights gathered through these methods provide the emotional and aspirational content needed in order for readers to empathize with the patient and fully understand the challenges and barriers they face. From the research, gaps and opportunities clearly start to form along the path, and patient quotes used along the way help to further present the emotional aspect of the treatment journey.

Next, concept sketches are created in order to provide options based on different objectives that may be desired. A disease-state journey might work well as an overall visual metaphor with graphic analogies (a patient with Alzheimer's disease says they feel like they're drowning, so the journey takes place on the sea where rocks and waterfalls signify hardship and challenges). A patient-HCP journey may work effectively by focusing only on the conversations and milestones that make up the experience. Once a direction is decided, full-color illustration is created and, along with the in-depth content, the patient journey is born.

From there, it can take on many different forms. A static piece of paper; an interactive experience using audio and video; a live role-playing exercise . . . all of these can help bring the journey to life so users can begin to understand areas of opportunity throughout the treatment experience.

The ability to present the overall treatment continuum and help users see gaps and opportunities make patient journeys invaluable research documents for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, managed care organizations, clinical trial companies, federal and state governments, health care systems, device and diagnostic manufacturers, and nursing, pharmacy, social work and medical schools. For many, it helps to define a strategic plan of action that may include targeted treatment interventions and marketing communications introduced at exactly the right point in time so patients receive the support needed in order to treat their disease more effectively.

By understanding the journey, we can help create innovative solutions that drive meaningful change in health care delivery for both patients and providers alike.


Ken Thorlton is an executive level Creative Director with deep insight into patients, care partners,
and the patient/HCP interactions.

His research knowledge and experience in creating patient journeys has helped establish him as a valuable strategic partner for many Fortune 100 clients.

Ken has 15 years' experience as a User Engagement designer, delivering creative solutions for health care, biotech companies, and more.

© Kenneth Thorlton Design 2015. All rights reserved. Products, company names, and logos mentioned herein are trademarks of their respective owners. All work contained herein, whether conceptual or real, is the intellectual property of Kenneth Thorlton Design.