Paul Gascoigne, Creative Director, shares his experiences since joining the A Life in a Day team in early June
Since the extra-long weekend of the Jubilee, I’ve endured heart failure, just about survived lung cancer, sort of mastered the ins and outs of self-injection and been rendered immobile by soft tissue ossification. To top it all, I’ve just been diagnosed with stage 2 hormone responsive breast cancer.
Let me explain.
In early June, I became the new Creative Director leading a cohort of compassionate conveyers of chronic conditions, illness, and diseases. And in doing so, found myself engaged wholeheartedly in one of the most extraordinary creative processes I’ve had the privilege to be part of.
You see, my new team here at ’A Life in a Day’ create immersive around-the-clock simulations that confront participants with the absolute realities of living with a chronic condition.
What makes these experiences unique is the way in which they make you – the audience – become your own storyteller. You are not watching or reading about a character. You are instead living a day or so of YOUR life immersed in the new reality of a patient with a life-limiting condition. In other words, these experiences integrate with your normal daily routine to deliver visceral insights into the physiological, emotional, and social impacts of the condition – and its treatment regimen – by making you the patient.
The whole point is to increase participant insight, understanding and empathy for the patient experience. To prompt clinicians and health practitioners to see, feel, and act differently by recognising the emotional human being beyond their diagnosis and treatment. Many will call this patient-centricity. We – at A Life in a Day – consider it our mission.
A process of creating connection
Immersion is the feeling of being submerged by a completely different reality that can grasp, absorb, and engross our attention and perception. It is not an emergent result of the evolution of digital technologies, nor even a particularly new concept. It is, however, the outcome of the practice of design. A creative process of defining a sequence of thoughts and actions that enable you, as a participant, to imagine this is happening to me.
Having been a creative lead for a couple of decades, creative process is something I have always been heavily invested in. However, coming to A Life in a Day, I have been astounded by the subtle, yet powerful differences in the creative process employed here versus those used in my old world of experiential advertising. It is how we unlock often small but significant nuggets of meaning that ensure ideas are based in and arise from truth. It is the ‘why’ that gives meaning to our ‘how’.
The starting point of every A Life in a Day experience is time spent with patients. A lot of time. This is not market research; it is a deep search of real people’s life stories. Our creative process is – and always remains – accountable to these stories that we document. Every element and every word in each experience is based not on digitally harvested assumptions and preconceptions, but on the face-to-face testimony of people who live the realities of these conditions every day.
In fact, the one thing that drew me to this company was just how emotionally invested the team is. That they are wholeheartedly committed to representing patients and their stories with ferocious authenticity. That they always honour and respect those that share their stories in the hope of increasing patient-centric understanding, to help make things just a little better for others.
Just like their consumer-targeting equivalents, many life sciences companies will argue that they are patent-centric because they make and market products FOR patients.
Delving Beyond Patient-Centricity
In my old world, the creative process often invented responses to needs that were projected onto the consumer. In my brave new world, our creative process discovers ways to live a truth. Rather than mould insight to suit the presumptive strategies of a communications plan, the process at A Life in a Day excavates insight from the truths of the patient experience and makes their stories the strategy.
Admittedly, there has been a shift in ad-land doctrine to put the consumer at the heart of communications. But this customer-centricity often still views the people it wants to influence through the lens of the brand. By attempting to gain cut-through in the shifting sands of modern media against a constant countdown to temporal irrelevance, ad-land is still missing out on the importance of how people feel when they do a thing, to understand why they do it.
Sidestepping into the world of pharmaceuticals, following the same model in an approach to patient centricity means people are similarly seen through the lens of physicians, regulators, or health plans.
Just like their consumer-targeting equivalents, many life sciences companies will argue that they are patent-centric because they make and market products FOR patients. A truly patient-centric approach must start and end with – and never deviate from – the interests and realities of the patient. For example: in a traditional study to understand different outcome preferences between physicians and patients, a physician might consider ‘pain free’ as the most important, but patients living with the condition would dismiss this as unrealistic and identify ‘rapid relief’ as their preference.
The creative process at A Life in a Day does not interview patients to check a box or cherry pick to post-rationalise preconceived ideas or strategies. Rather than approach patients with an agenda of confirming what we think is important, we ask patients to tell us what is important to them. It is a process of collaboration with patients to give shape to the moments of truthful experience to be included in a simulation of their condition.
As Mike Dixon wrote in his PME article ‘Walking in their Shoes’, ”…we are always talking about being patient-centric. But without being in the situation ourselves, how well can we really grasp the real implications of the health and everyday living challenges individuals and their families face? I would argue the quality of the insight is everything…In all our work we should be striving for the best insights possible and that, of course, includes understanding the lives of those we are trying to help with our health innovations.”
Whatever the condition, A Life in a Day’s creative process delivers the emotional, practical, and motivational understanding necessary to better equip health professionals to develop the interventions that will make a real difference to patients’ lives.
It is the only process I have experienced that delves deep enough into peoples’ lives to unlock insights that enable you – as A Life in a Day participant – imagine this is really happening to you.
I am, even though I’m now also dealing with a severe viral respiratory infection, truly privileged to be included in this process.