Over the course of 14 projects in 5 years, ReD has been responsible for helping set in motion, and for strengthening, Novo Nordisk’s commitment to the needs of diabetes patients. The focus on patients was incubated in the insulin-maker’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) division, which felt that Novo had a chance to help people in more profound ways than simply providing insulin.
ReD conducted Novo’s first study around the emotional experience of patients who were living with diabetes. We spent many intimate weeks with patients, learning about how they cope with diabetes, what matters to them, and what helps them accept the disease psychologically. Our research validated the fact that insulin is part of the solution, but not the entire solution, and led Novo to consider other kinds of initiatives that would positively influence people’s lifestyles.
That first study spawned numerous follow-up studies about patients’ well-being. What evolved was a realization, for us and for Novo, that behavior that seemed irrational at first—such as the refusal to take medication—was more rational and deliberate than we anticipated. For example, a patient may refuse to take insulin because he believes stress causes diabetes, and instead of medication he goes about mitigating stress in his life. However incorrect his self-diagnosis, the patient is methodical about the problem. He or she may have a complex and detailed (if inaccurate) view of why they’re sick and may go about changing their lifestyle, diet, or exercise regimen in meticulous and structured ways in order to ameliorate their condition.
We quickly discovered that lifestyle and diet were the central challenges for diabetes patients—and that fact was inextricably tied into how likely patients were to take their insulin. For people to change their habits and control their diets, they needed consistent, positive reinforcement from General Practitioners (GP) and a patient support system that addressed their individual needs and fears. If patients could be steered into imagining a more active and positive future for themselves—through lifestyle and diet changes—they would be more likely to see insulin as part of that future, rather than a drug you take as a last resort.
As our research narrowed in on the struggles experienced by this group of patients, it inspired a shift within Novo—motivating these patients became central to Novo’s vision. The Patient Insight Knowledge Centre, an internal group within Novo, is one of many initiatives they developed to serve patients through services or product accessories. Novo also invested in building both digital and offline patient support programs and became more dedicated to advising healthcare professionals and consumer groups about the treatment and support of people with diabetes.
This strategy represents a natural evolution of Novo’s brand, transitioning it from a manufacturer of life-improving maintenance drugs to a socially responsible enterprise that’s committed to improving its patients’ lives.