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Health Care Strategies to Reach the Consumer with Diabetes

Woman taking a blood glucose testMedical literature is full of health and wellness advice for the many Americans with diabetes — some 25.8 million adults and children according to the American Diabetes Association.

Unfortunately, this kind of advice is often preached, loudly, to no great effect. It is not because the information isn’t sound or useful. It is, in part, due to the fact that those responsible for communicating valuable medical advice aren’t speaking in a way that patients can relate.

As November is American Diabetes Month, it is a prime time to start strengthening your communication about diabetes.

The first step is to understand the person with whom you’re speaking.

Healthcare consumers with diabetes may share a common condition, but they are an incredibly disparate group. To paraphrase the old shopping phrase “one size does not fit all.” People with diabetes come in all sizes, shapes, ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic profiles. In short, there is no one, clear profile that defines them.

Therefore, care providers, insurance companies, and healthcare retailers must develop distinct health care strategies to both treating and communicating information about the disease.

Some Americans don’t even know they have diabetes.

Research has shown that upwards of 27% of Americans with diabetes are not even aware that they have the disease.

Although these individuals will exhibit many of the symptoms, for whatever set of reasons, they have not been diagnosed.

  • Perhaps they’re not aware of the significance of the symptoms they’ve experienced.
  • Possibly they haven’t even told their doctors about the symptoms.
  • Perhaps they don’t even go to doctors. Whatever the case, they can be a difficult group to reach.

Education is, of course, the key to ensure that individuals with diabetes, whether diagnosed or not, receive the treatment they need. However, with a growing population of patients with diabetes and such a large incidence of undiagnosed diabetes, it is apparent that traditional avenues of communication like advertising campaigns, media reports, and literature have not been as effective as possible.

More effective communication can be developed by understanding the habits, needs, attitudes and motivations of patients with diabetes.

According to our research (n=4,878 respondents), 88% of diagnosed patients have Type 2 diabetes. However, patients with Type 2 diabetes look a bit different than those with Type 1 diabetes.

Our study indicates that patients with Type 2 diabetes:

  • Skew older
  • More likely to be White/Caucasian than patients with Type 1 diabetes
  • More likely to be politically conservative
  • Are more confident in paying health care bills
  • Are more successful in balancing health care costs with everyday expenses
  • Are more than three times less likely to exercise

Patients with Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand:

  • Report a higher level of stress in their lives
  • Tend to invest far more time and effort into improving their health
  • Are more preventative and wellness-oriented
  • Have been more successful in developing routines to manage their disease
  • Are three times more likely to be extremely satisfied with their physical appearance
  • Are more likely to be politically liberal
  • Are more likely to file a lawsuit against a physician, hospital or health insurance company

These are just a few differences between patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes; there are many other characteristics that differ between the two groups. A diabetes education or intervention program designed to appeal to a patient with Type 2 diabetes may not resonate with a patient managing Type 1 diabetes. 

Psychographic segmentation “peels the onion” further among patients with diabetes.

As stated earlier, people with diabetes (or even within one of the specific Types) have very different backgrounds, experiences, and motivations. Even within a Type of diabetes, messaging will have varying levels of effectiveness across different patients.

Our market research uncovered five distinct psychographic segments, each with its own set of attitudes and motivations, but looking at patients with diabetes, specifically:

Distribution of diabetes among patient segments 

The leading segment among people with diabetes is the “Self Achievers,” followed by “Willful Endurers.” These two segments are very dissimilar in their attitudes and behaviors with regard to health and wellness. 

Self Achievers are goal-oriented engage the healthcare system relatively frequently. Armed with a plan and measures to chart progress, Self Achievers are more likely to take action against a challenge. 

On the other hand, Willful Endurers are more reactive, taking a “fix it when it’s broken” approach to health.  In fact, a third of all Willful Endurers admit to being a “couch potato” in the study. 

One might imagine that the messaging and proposition necessary to enact behavior change would be different between these two segments.

Understanding the psychographic make-up of your customers — and potential customers — is essential for your success.

In an environment of consumerism, the patient is truly a customer. 

“Know your customer” may seem like something of a cliché, but it is also essential to crafting the kind of communication that can help you establish successful relationships with your healthcare consumers whether they are patients, shoppers, or members.

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


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