Lawes experience with presciption pharmaceuticals and OTC medicines and health products spans a wide range of categories. Our research concerning the language, psychology and journeys through diagnosis and treatment of sufferers of MPS1, a rare genetic disorder, was published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics. We’ve also worked on digestive disorders including IBS, mental health disorders including ADD, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and coughs and colds. We’ve worked with hard-to-reach patient populations in multi-country projects and have provided practical advice to drug manufacturers, patient advocate groups and health care providers on better ways to communicate with sensitive and anxious client groups. This type of research typically involves a mix of semiotics, discourse analysis and ethnography, as we show our clients the power of words and visual symbols to change patients’ experience of illness and treatment and their perceptions of brands and organisations.

Did you know?

  • Patients are very sensitive to visual and verbal representations of themselves which they find in communications and literature about their disease. The word ‘patient’ is itself not neutral and well-intended photos of patients and their families can be disturbing and anxiety-provoking for those who are newly-diagnosed.
  • The general public and health care professionals tend to speak two different dialects when talking about disease and why it is a problem. Experienced patients learn to switch dialects but this is not an ideal situation and professional organisations could do more to speak to patients in their own language, reflecting their own concerns.
  • Experiences of illness and reactions to healthcare options can be highly culturally specific. For example, English-speaking North American culture has its own ideas about health and illness which don’t straightforwardly correspond to Spanish-speaking Latin American ideas. This is not just a case of different ‘labels’ being applied by users of different languages, but involves qualitatively different ideas about what health is, what types of illnesses humans suffer from and what the appropriate responses are.

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