Accelerating the path to diagnosis for a rare condition

Low awareness and an inadequate understanding of Ankylosing Spondilytis (AS), a rare autoimmune disease, was prolonging the PatientConumer™ path to correct diagnosis and, ultimately, treatment.

The Challenge

In order to accelerate Rx, our client needed to address  speed to diagnosis. The general population’s IQ around AS was low, and its prime symptom – back pain – was easily misattributed to mechanical issues. Using the PatientConsumer™ framework, we sought to pinpoint exactly where patients were getting trapped, and identify the right triggers to push them forward faster.

01 /


Persona work revealed a different set of primary influencers than expected.

The onset of back pain triggered online searches, conversations with the pharmacist for OTC recommendations, and trips to the massage therapist or chiropractor for relief. All very practical solutions when looking to resolve mechanical back pain, but relatively ineffective in dealing with the inflammatory issues of AS.

With no easy way for the PatientConsumer™ to distinguish between the two, they were engaging the wrong side of their care team, in a misleading conversation.


02 /


Journey work revealed that unforeseen knowledge gaps around AS existed at the GP level as well. Overburdened with information, they were focused on treating the symptoms, instead of understanding the root cause.

This resulted in frequent misdiagnosis and prolonged referrals to the rheumatologist, delaying the PatientConsumer™ even further.

03 /


Insights from profiles and journeys revealed a clear step-change in where to focus efforts.


Stop investing in disease awareness through mass media. It’s inefficient, and not reaching prospective patients at the right time.


Start investing in disrupting the PatientConsumer™ at initial symptom recognition through the channels they are using - search and non-HCP influencers they resort to first. 


Change the approach with the overloaded GP, leaning on an educated PatientConsumer™ to help them get to the right diagnosis the first time around.

The Solution

Our client needed to rethink how, when and where they could intercept their PatientConsumer™, who they needed to access within their influencer network, and where they needed to focus their education efforts. We developed an unbranded, content-rich, search-optimized screener that allowed the PatientConsumer™ to diagnose their back pain, share that information with their GP, and prompt the right conversation to get to diagnosis, faster.