Patient Journey: Seeking empathy & solutions for living in constant pain

How can we help a global pharma company move beyond their assumptions to create deep empathy and build patient-centric solutions for a universal but commonly dismissed condition?

The Challenge

A global pharmaceutical company was seeking to develop a deep and nuanced understanding for people living with and caring for pain. In doing so, the company would be equipped to a) include patient-centric endpoints in their Phase 2 trials, and b) develop products and services beyond the pill, improving outcomes and brand loyalty.

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Our Perspective

Although pain is one of the most common human experiences, it is also one of the hardest experiences to express. Despite how common it is, pain can never be fully understood by others. The result is often a sense of pervasive mistrust that defines the HCP-patient and society-patient experience, often leading patients to minimize/hide/downplay their experience.

Engaging with patients who live with pain requires rebuilding trust. We leveraged experience design research techniques that forefront trust (over getting data) and are participant-driven (over researcher driven). This ultimately enabled us to uncover what the experience of living with pain is really like.

Our Approach

Virtual Hypothesis Generation Session

Included cross-functional stakeholders to map existing hypotheses and assumptions, and define areas of exploration with patients

Virtual Design Research

Conducted with patients and their caregivers, including video interviews, video and audio portraits (auto-ethnography), and journaling - over 70 participants, all living with or caring for different types of pain

Empathy Generation

Shared key assumptions the client needed to shift and reframe in order to be successful in the space

Foresight Trend Development

Developed key trends that are shaping the future of pain management (over the next 10 years), and Future-proofing of strategies


Cross-functional workshop to develop solutions that meet patients’ and caregivers’ needs in the most impactful way

Our Impact

Leveraging an Experience Design mindset and process, the team solved for the most impactful social, emotional, logistical, and physical unmet needs of patients and caregivers.

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Shifts in Thinking
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Reframed Strategic Opportunities
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Personas & Accompanying Journeys

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The decision making process behind adopting a new treatment

Using behavioral sciences to create concepts that inspire HCP action

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