Using the metabolic mindset to boost healthcare provider confidence in your brand

Jessica Brueggeman

MicroMass Communications, Inc.

Chronic, non-communicable diseases pose a serious burden to patients, healthcare providers and healthcare systems. Because patients have only brief interactions with their healthcare teams, they face the challenges of managing their conditions on their own every day. The daily choices that they make – not just taking medication, but lifestyle choices such as food and exercise – determine their overall success (or failure) at meeting their health and treatment goals. Because so much of the burden of success lies in the hands of patients, healthcare providers often feel powerless to help patients achieve good outcomes.

And as much as we hear that access is the prime contributor to poor uptake of therapies and thus, poor outcomes, it’s not true. According to the CDC, behavior is the leading determinant of health, ranking higher than both social and economic factors. As pharmaceutical marketers, why should we care about self-management behaviors?

“Because so much of the burden of success lies in the hands of patients, healthcare providers often feel powerless to help patients achieve good outcomes.”

Well, we should care about anything that stands in the way of success with our products. No matter how adherent patients are to medications for chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, if they are not adhering to the necessary lifestyle choices, then they will continue to be uncontrolled. And if they remain uncontrolled, then healthcare providers will escalate to the next line therapy.

We have an opportunity to redefine “success” and the role that pharmaceutical brands can play. Altruistically, it’s an opportunity to help patients be adherent not just to medications, but also to the lifestyle changes that will lead to better outcomes. And on the flip side, offering patient-centric, lifestyle support translates to “value” that can differentiate your brand at the point of prescription.

But how can we realistically support patient self-management, and how can we do it efficiently? The answer is a simple tool that not only helps patients make necessary lifestyle changes, but also increases healthcare provider confidence in patients’ abilities to self-manage.

Figure 1: Global impact of metabolic diseases

Our hypothesis

In our quest to find efficient and effective approaches to driving behavior change, the behavioral science team at MicroMass developed the hypothesis that despite having different metabolic diseases, people have psychological similarities that drive behavior.

“…behavior is the leading determinant of health, ranking higher than both social and economic factors.”

What we did

To test our hypothesis, we conducted primary research with a nationally representative sample of 1,500 patients with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and/or obesity who were living in the U.S.

What we discovered

Regardless of the differences in treatments, symptoms and complexity across different metabolic conditions, patients’ motivations and barriers to change are remarkably similar. We call this psychological insight the Metabolic Mindset. ™ These patient similarities coalesce into four main groups: Cruise Control, Taking Charge, Overwhelmed and Disengaged.

Figure 2: Metabolic mindset – the four main patient groups

Image courtesy of Micromass Communications, Inc.

We used our insights to create a simple tool that marketers can use directly with patients or with the healthcare providers that treat them. As a marketer, knowing and understanding these four main groups allows you the opportunity to:

• Deliver the most effective strategies and messages to target patient customers

• Arm healthcare providers with targeted tools and communication strategies to help patients have the most successful outcomes with your product

Impacting patients for successful outcomes using the metabolic mindset

Understanding the core psychology of the four patient segments allows marketers and healthcare providers to deliver messages and support that is relevant and powerful. Here’s a quick look at the important differences.

Reaching those on cruise control

Cruise Control patients are just that – on cruise control. They are coasting along without much deliberation, doing a decent job of trying to manage their disease. But their level of concern is low, so they can easily get off track. Physicians should encourage these patients to use self- assessment tools and trackers to reinforce their good work. Luckily for marketers, once this group has accepted your brand, they are loyal. Just keep your brand top of mind by providing information and special offers.

Reaching those taking charge

This group is the “expert patient.” They see the full connection between their behaviors and their conditions and are committed to their self-management plans. Basic support and disease education 101 will turn off these patients. Healthcare providers or marketers can engage these patients as advocates and invite them to be on consumer advisory boards. They are not interested in coupons and special offers. If you want to push information to them, acknowledge their sophistication and tell them something they don’t already know.

“…despite having different metabolic diseases, people have psychological similarities that drive behavior.”

Reaching the overwhelmed

Unlike the disengaged, the Overwhelmed are concerned about their conditions, but they are too overwhelmed to do anything about it. Healthcare providers and marketers need to understand that this group of patients is looking for easy, simple shortcuts and convenience. Offering tools and systems that do the heavy lifting will be appealing.

Reaching the disengaged

Disengaged patients have little faith in treatment because they believe that their condition is beyond their control. Marketers and healthcare providers will have more success reaching disengaged patients through their families and other loved ones. And when you do get their attention, keep it simple and focus on small successes.

Roadmap for success

While many in our industry pay a lot of lip service to helping patients live healthier lives, the truth is that in metabolic diseases, much of the success or failure comes down to patients’ lifestyle choices. And healthcare providers, who understand the importance of lifestyle changes, are often ill-equipped to counsel patients on this critical element of success. But by employing the Metabolic Mindset™ as a framework for communications, you can raise the confidence of patients as well as healthcare providers in patients’ abilities to live healthier lives.


1. World Health Organization. Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010.




You can download the full white paper on Metabolic Mindset™ to get an in-depth look at how to impact these patient segments.

Or take the quiz to identify your Metabolic Mindset. ™

The next article from Micromass will be published in October

About the author:

Jessica Brueggeman, RN, MPH, is director of behavioral services at MicroMass Communications, a specialist in the use of behavioral science to meet marketing challenges. She blends clinical knowledge and behavioral models to develop strategies that change both patients’ and health care providers’ behavior. Jessica joined MicroMass in 2000 and currently leads the behavioral services team. She has experience in nursing and health behaviors, with emphases in metabolic diseases, COPD, asthma, neurohealth, overactive bladder, and cervical cancer prevention. Jessica has a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She can be contacted by e-mail at, or by telephone at 919-256-2403. “MetabolicMindset” is a MicroMass trademark.

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