Behavioural analysis

We know that much of the pressure on services results from the choices we all make as patients – but how do people make those choices? Our detailed market research is providing new insights into patient behaviour.

The NHS faces immense pressure every winter, due to factors like demographic change and increasing numbers of patients with complex needs. This pressure is exacerbated by a significant number of patients who use the system inappropriately, attending A&E with minor problems or visiting GPs with things that could be treated at home with help from a pharmacist.

This project has conducted comprehensive behavioural analysis into what drives these decisions, providing evidence to design a social marketing approach, influence patient behaviour, and help reduce pressure on services.

Research developed a depth of evidence about views of patients and staff from A&E, primary care, 999 and 111 teams, paramedics and pharmacists. This included 40 in-depth staff interviews, staff web groups, public focus groups (61 participants), rolling focus groups/video booths (32 staff/162 patients), rapid ethnography, vox pops and wiki engagement.

This created Mosaic segmentation around use of services, and an opportunity to improve understanding of the purpose of urgent and emergency care services in the North East. By understanding the way patients make their decisions, we can target hard-hitting campaigns more effectively.

Significantly, we found strong evidence that patients do not respond to being lectured, in spite of showing strong support for protecting the NHS by choosing services carefully.

This analysis provided the basis for a major regional campaign using a family of ‘plasticine people’ to share hard-hitting messages in an engaging, friendly way.

Designed to be flexible and responsive, the plasticine people share factual and timely information influencing patient choices, using a surge modelling algorithm to monitor peaks in demand and select key messages for social media, digital and other advertising accordingly.

Creative testing showed that the characters have instant, striking appeal, and can cover challenging topics in a direct style because their warmth softens the harder messages.

Next steps for the project could include further development of the surge modelling algorithm concept, and creation of a new self-care app for adults, to build on the success of the NHS Child Health app.

Making a difference? Find out more about evaluation and measurement of this project’s impact here.

‘Plasticine People’ Campaign – measurement and evaluation

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