Changing Patient Behavior with Packaging

Human behavior has been all but ignored as the root cause for the failure of healthcare adherence, argues John Bitner, a design engineer who has studied human interaction with packaging for decades. “People are adverse to change,” he says. “Even when faced with a very bad disease, and they know a lifestyle change is essential to survival, for whatever reason, they cannot.”

Noncompliance with prescribed drug regimens in particular is adding up to significant healthcare costs, so healthcare payers are becoming more and more motivated to address it. Dr. Randall Williams, a Johns Hopkins trained cardiologist who founded Pharos Innovations, cites statistics on his Web site that put the annual bill for noncompliance at nearly $300 billion.

Bitner believes that packaging can help, and he’ll be sharing his perspective at HCPC’s annual symposium, RxAdherence 2012, to be held March 27. “Behavioral change occurs by addressing a person’s feelings,” says Bitner. “Packaging can answer the call by sharing a patient’s personal bravery to encounter change, enabling them bravely to dare challenge the impossible.” His session, entitled “Comply or Die,” will draw from his own experience designing adult-friendly child-resistant packaging while working for major pharmaceutical manufacturers and as a consultant to the industry.

But Bitner doesn’t believe in using fear of disease or prognosis as a motivator. Quoting Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, he shares the doctor’s rhetorical question: “Who wants to live longer when you’re in chronic emotional pain?”

“Motivating a patient through fear does not enamor her to use a compliant package,” Bitner adds. Instead, “a package can function as a patient partner by providing motivational passion of joy rather than fear,” he says.

“From a packaging point of perspective, we need to better understand the patient or care taker frame of mind because today they are functioning with a very different mental structure in the way they see the world.”

Bitner will join several other professionals for a panel discussion featuring Michael Parisi, Managing Partner, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide; Colleen A. McHorney, Ph.D. Senior Director, US Outcomes Research, Merck & Co, Inc.; Laura Cranston, RPh, Executive Director, Pharmacy Quality Alliance Inc.; Rob Blazek, RPh, Senior Director, Business Development and Network Strategies, RxEdge; and Thomas S. Bellavia, MD, MBA, Associate Professor of Medicine, UMDMJ.

RxAdherence will be held at the Hamilton Park Hotel & Conference Center in Florham Park, NJ. For more details, visit http://www.hcpconline.org/rxadherence.html.

Bitner is president of Bitner Associates Inc. and serves on PMP News’s editorial advisory board.

Daphne Allen

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