7 tips for communicating with elderly healthcare consumers
Annual health observances usually have a theme, and Older Americans Month, which is celebrated every May, is no exception. This year’s theme, “Age Out Loud,” emphasizes giving older Americans “a new voice—one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.”
It’s a timely message, given that the sheer number of aging Baby Boomers—coupled with shortages of healthcare professionals—puts greater demands on the healthcare system and increases healthcare costs.
But the challenge isn’t just about hospitals and other healthcare providers listening to elderly healthcare consumers. It’s also about understanding how to communicate effectively with them to improve patient engagement.
Use psychographic segmentation to tailor approaches to older patients
Healthcare providers can’t expect every message to hit home—especially if they’re using a one-size-fits-all approach to reach individuals that have different beliefs, motivations and preferences when it comes to healthcare.
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55- to 64-year-olds
For example, only 18 percent of the general population falls within the Balance Seeker segment. But among healthcare consumers between the ages of 55 to 64, the number of Balance Seekers climbs to 25 percent, before declining to 16 percent for 65 to 74-year-olds and 13 percent for those 75 and older.
Balance Seekers, as we’ve noted previously, consider healthcare professionals to be just one of many possible sources of health information. Our research reveals a number of factors that can help you fine-tune your messaging and programs:
Tip 1: Not only do 95 percent of Balance Seekers visit health-related websites, indicating a higher comfort level with technology in general, but they are also the most likely segment to use health apps on smartphones. This openness to technology means that Balance Seekers in the 55 to 64 age range are a good audience for health technology solutions. Hospitals and other healthcare providers may be able to drive engagement less obtrusively using technology that makes Balance Seekers feel empowered to make healthy decisions or manage chronic diseases independently.
94% of senior patients appreciated digital follow-up (i.e., emails, text messages, Interactive Voice Response) to hospital discharges for Congestive Heart Failure.
Tip 2: Because this segment is proactive with health education but balks at being told what to do by a physician, hospitals can reach them more effectively by providing decision-making tools that outline options for care, along with the possible consequences.
The 55- to 64-year-old age bracket also tracks slightly higher for Priority Jugglers. They spent most of their lives focused on demanding careers and family responsibilities, to which Priority Jugglers are committed by nature. As the name suggests, this segment focuses on others, generally sacrificing their own wellbeing to ensure loved ones or colleagues get the support they need. How can you reach them?
Tip 3: Priority Jugglers have a strong sense of duty. Hospitals and other healthcare providers can use messaging that emphasizes how healthy behaviors can reduce risk, which can motivate Priority Juggler patients who want to “be there” for the people who depend on them.
65- to 74-year-olds
This age group has reached retirement age. Compared to the general population, the number of Willful Endurers drops by 8 percent and the number of Direction Takers increases by 9 percent. This age group grew up when physicians and other healthcare professionals enjoyed a stronger image of authority and prestige, when patients did what doctors told them. Direction Takers see physicians as the authority when it comes to health and wellness and are more likely to call the doctor at the first sign of a problem. Willful Endurers, on the other hand, are less likely to follow physicians’ advice or engage the healthcare system.
Tip 4: Provide clear, easy-to-follow advice to encourage older Direction Takers to manage their health concerns.
Tip 5: Highlight and leverage credentialing. Direction Takers (and Self Achievers, described below) most value healthcare professionals’ expertise and accomplishment. Visible reinforcement of these concepts solidify and strengthen these segments’ estimation of healthcare professionals.
Tip 6: This is also an audience that can benefit from automated patient engagement to keep them on track with wellness programs, medication adherence, chronic disease management and appointment reminders since they may struggle to follow medical advice. Do not assume that older patients are afraid of technology; 94 percent of senior patients appreciated digital follow-up (i.e., emails, text messages, Interactive Voice Response) to hospital discharges for Congestive Heart Failure in a pilot involving PatientBond and a large, nonprofit hospital system where readmissions were reduced more than 90 percent.
Ages 75 and older
Most in this age group are retired, but don’t expect to find them all sitting on the porch in rocking chairs. Increasingly, older Americans discover a second career post-retirement, thanks to the new “gig” economy. From part-time contracting in their field of expertise to volunteering for favorite charitable causes, many in this oldest demographic are still on the go, albeit at a more relaxed pace.
Interestingly, the c2b segmentation data reflect this with a 10 percent increase in Self Achievers compared to the “younger” 55 to 64-year-old cohort. Highly motivated and proactive, these patients will benefit from:
Tip 7: Provide Self-Achievers—31 percent of healthcare consumers age 75 and older—with clear objectives and measures to motivate healthy behaviors. Naturally goals must be appropriate to their physical and cognitive abilities, but Self-Achievers, regardless of age, will appreciate having targets to aim for. Specific progress measures are key for Self Achievers to motivate and gauge accomplishment.
The demands on the healthcare system will grow as Baby Boomers age. Dr. Kedar Mate, the lead investigator for a collaborative Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative launched by the John A. Hartford Foundation, Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the American Hospital Association, knows that the answer to reducing healthcare demand and costs starts with delivering effective experiences to elderly healthcare consumers.
Mate, who also serves as chief education and innovation officer for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, points out, “People are getting older and they’re living longer. We have to get better at providing care for them.” With the help of psychographic segmentation, hospitals and other healthcare providers can also get better at engaging them.