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Average Americans, Healthcare Consumers, and National Health Trends


Bar graph with stethoscopeAs we work to reform the healthcare system and understand the mechanisms that drive it, it would be helpful to understand what it is that consumers believe about their health and the state of healthcare in America.

Healthcare consumers are not a uniform bloc, so messaging must be tailored.

In the 2013 c2b Consumer Diagnostic, we found that only 11% of respondents believed themselves to need clear direction from a healthcare provider in order to do what is best for their health.

  • Over a quarter of all respondents were relatively closed to wellness messaging; they either don’t actively do anything to manage their health, or do not seek health and wellness guidance.
  • 30% reported that they are open to direction from health professionals, but they don’t actively seek it.
  • About one third of Americans want their healthcare providers to present them with options for care, but reserve the decision-making process for themselves.

As can be seen from these statistics, a sizable population of American healthcare consumers consider themselves to be self-sufficient.

Given our national obsession with healthcare, why the resistance to healthcare professionals?

While not all consumers think alike, a case study can allow us to make a few general comparisons can be made between resistant populations.

Think about this for a second: we’re a nation facing an historic health crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012 reported that over 35.7% of Americans were obese, and that this is responsible for an estimated 300,000 preventable deaths a year.

And the problem may be even more pronounced than the CDC has reported.

An analysis of our respondents, based on BMI, indicated that about 53% were overweight to obese. 30% of respondents admitted that they were “couch potatoes” and 30% stated that they don’t make health behaviors a priority.

But contrast those numbers against the 85% of respondents who reported they view themselves to be in “Good” to “Excellent” health. There’s a disconnect somewhere.

How can up to one half of American healthcare consumers struggle with an issue linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and depression… yet over 85% see themselves as acceptably healthy? Denial? Lack of motivation?  “Wellness illiteracy?”

Probably a bit of all three.

Americans know they need to make health a priority; they just don’t always do it.

This has much to do with psychographic factors within the population.

In any group, you have the self-motivated leaders, the followers, and the harmonizers. You also invariably get a segment of contrarians who, when it comes to healthcare consumers, makeup about 27% of the population.

This segment, whom we call Willful Endurers, continues to test the capacity of our healthcare system.

Willful Endure-type behaviors ultimately result in high utilization and costly bounce-back cascades. A noncompliant diabetic requiring an ER visit and an ICU admission for a ketoacidotic episode, if he has decent insurance, represents a high-revenue encounter.  But his very noncompliance ensures that he’ll be back, again and again, for the same problem.

That diabetic’s utilization (as a member of an aggregate population of noncompliant patients) causes his health plan to raise rates on his employer and other insured individuals.

It’s a vicious cycle, and one that helped trigger the Affordable Care Act’s passage.

As healthcare providers, we are on the front lines of building a healthier America. We must start by building individually healthy Americans.

Regardless of the ACA’s eventual success or failure, winning the heart and mind of the average American health consumer is going to be a tall order. You need to understand his motivations for compliance or noncompliance, and develop messaging that will either speak to the individual or speak to those in a position to motivate him.


Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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