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Reform Forces Doctors and Hospitals to Understand the Patient Mindset

doctor listening to patientFrank and open patient communication is a running theme in medical advice columns.

Patients are offered advice on how they should be preparing for doctor visits and medical procedures, told the kind of questions they should be asking, and given patient education on managing health conditions (often written at a reading level far above the average patient).

But what about the other side of this conversation?

How does a doctor know what it is that their patients really want from their healthcare, and what it will take to motivate them to seek out care or follow through on medical advice? What can they do to communicate more effectively with patients and, therefore, improve outcomes?

These questions have become a pressing concern for hospitals who are trying to keep up with the consumer-driven healthcare reforms.

If you performed a search of the term “what do patients want,” as you may already be doing, or tried some other related term, Google inevitably turns up a list of short and often bland articles from media outlets or healthcare industry sources that offer general truisms and obvious advice, without providing specific or actionable solutions.

If you are persistent in your search, you may come across an insightful piece be an advocacy group like the National Patient Safety Foundation that puts a face on the actual patient experience.

Few speak of concrete strategies for improving the doctor-patient relationship.

Understanding what the patient really wants out of the healthcare experience

Healthcare writer David Shaywitz’s 2011 Forbes article, however, offers compelling answers to the question of what patients really want from their doctors. Forbes’ detailed look at the published research from University of Toronto internist and health policy expert Dr. Allan Detsky shows a picture of the average patient’s ideal healthcare experience that provides:

  • Top-tier care
  • Personal attention
  • Immediate results
  • Privacy
  • Low out-of-pocket cost
  • Priority

Detsky’s study indicates 15 points of patient wants/needs that comprise consumerized healthcare that is, in his own words, “irrational and unrealistic… [but not] irrelevant.”

While Detsky’s study provides insights into what patients imagine as ideal care, his research does not offer practical applications of how doctors and hospitals can turn these insights into feasible healthcare strategies.

His data do not speak to the human element of healthcare — the motives, beliefs, and opinions involved in the decision-making process that healthcare providers can use to build stronger communication with patients and create more effective healthcare strategies.

Creating actionable healthcare strategies from irrational data

Many patients can share the same demographic variables and even, as Detsky discovered, the same aspirations for their healthcare outcomes, but no two people are motivated to seek out medical care by the exact same set of circumstances — even if they share the same health condition age, gender, and ethnicity. 

This means that a single approach to the delivery of healthcare will not work as effectively for all patients.

If you are looking to create actionable healthcare strategies that address the ideal care experience, as discovered by Detsky or from your own data, you need a filter that allows you to interpret the underlying reasons for a patient’s behavior within the healthcare system, and psychographics can provide that filter.

Psychographics look at the attitudes and motivations of patients, giving healthcare providers the insight into the why behind what patients are looking for from the provider.

Psychographics use a variety of data points, including 6 major factors that drive patient motivations and behavior change, that explain why and how patients seek out professional care.

  1. values
  2. attitudes
  3. beliefs
  4. emotions
  5. interests/lifestyle
  6. personalities

The value of these data lies in the ability of corporate and institutional healthcare leaders to turn insights like Detsky’s healthcare wants and needs into real world healthcare strategies.

When a provider applies psychographic segmentation to medical claims data, shopper data, or other traditional healthcare research, the provider is able to better understand the behaviors of patients. By developing strategies that directly respond to these beliefs and behaviors, a doctor or hospital group is able to change message and methodologies in a practical way.

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


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