Fishing for Patients

The past week I’ve been doing two very different activities: vacationing in the shadow of the Tetons, and attending the National Hemophilia Foundation annual conference in Dallas, where we continued to recruit bleeding disorders patients, caregivers, nurses, and social workers. Do they have anything in common?  I think so.

On vacation, several of us spent a day floating the Snake River in Jackson, Wyoming, fly-fishing for cutthroat trout. In one boat was my 14 year old son and I. In another boat was my brother, Pete, and his friend. Pete has lived in Wyoming for many years, and is an excellent fisherman as well as tyer of flies. The weather was beautiful and we all had a great time. At the end of the day, I had landed 2 fish (though I had innumerable bites) and my brother caught about 45! He was in the same river on the same day, what was the difference?

  • Matching the hatch – Pete carefully changed his fly to match those that were on the river in different spots throughout the day, while I stuck with only two flies all day (I lost one to a snag in the rocks).
  • Knowing where to look – I had a vague idea to cast in the shallows, behind rocks, etc., but Pete knew exactly where those fish were likely to be hiding.
  • Experience – Pete from experience has developed the skill and timing to hook most fish who bit (please note – this was all catch and release – no fish were harmed in the making of this vacation!). Most of mine got away.

There are learnings here for recruiting rare patient sample for your qualitative and quantitative studies. Our patient panels are the equivalent to a trout “hot spot”- when we cast our appeals in the right spot, with the right message, we land many respondents! We go where the “fish” are – the patient conferences, walks, educational forums, etc. This fall we’ll be at events for AIDs, Cluster Headaches, Pulmonary Hypertension, Sickle Cell, Psoriasis, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemophilia, and Eosinophilic Esophagitis! Let us know what patients you need and we’ll see if we can find the right events. We “match the hatch” by tailoring our appeals to each audience to maximize response. And we use our experience (the right honoraria, timing, appeal) to “catch the limit” of your respondents.

I’m sure you’re tired of this analogy, but I must add that the joy we get when we successfully recruit your project matches that when we land that fly on the smooth water and we see the fish come up and take it!

About the author: Wes Michael, President and Founder of Rare Patient Voice, has been involved in rare and orphan diseases since 1998, interviewing and surveying patients, caregivers, physicians, nurses and advocacy leaders. Wes has more than 30 years experience in marketing research, and more than 15 years in healthcare marketing research.

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