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Strategic Health Care Makes Your Hospital the Choice for Caregivers

Elderly woman and her adult childThe last few years have seen a spike in the number of adults who manage the care of a family member. In fact, family caregiving has become such a regular part of American life that, last year, President Obama declared November Family Caregiver Month.

In 2013, more than 90 million Americans provided regular care for a sick, disabled, or elderly family member. According to the Caregiver Action Network:

  • 39% of all adults are involved in family caregiving, up from 30 percent in 2010 — that’s nearly 2 out of every 5 adults in America.
  • The prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease has served to increase the national number of caregivers. An estimated 15 million Americans are providing care for roughly 5 million people with Alzheimer’s.
  • The profile of family caregivers has changed, too. There was a time when nearly all family caregivers were women. Now, nearly 37% of all men are caregivers. That’s only slightly less than the 40 percent of women who are involved in caregiving.
  • Caregivers are getting younger, as well. Today, almost 36% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 regard themselves as at least occasional caregivers.

According to our 2013 study of the U.S. healthcare consumer, a majority of care is provided for an elderly parent (40%) with smaller percentages of children and other family members also receiving care:

Caregiving graph

These kinds of numbers are causing noticeable changes in the healthcare landscape of which hospitals, doctors, pharmacists, and retailers must take note. Health care strategies must account for the caregiver intermediary that has been inserted into the traditional consumer-provider binary.

Nearly everyone who receives care at home will need professional services at some point in the future — pharmacy or physician consultations, emergency services or in-patient hospital care. But the market for those services is crowded, and recognizing the influence (and benefits) of caregivers, hospitals find themselves marketing to these stakeholders as well as patients.

Stand out from the rest of the crowd.

The traditional methods of communication still work.

You need not end your direct mail campaigns, relationship building with support groups, or participation in community health fairs. Nevertheless, staying relevant to the shifting caregiver demographic requires adopting addition avenues. With younger caregivers an increasingly large part of the mix, having a social media presence is likely to be an effective method, too.

The most striking change, however, comes in the emphasis of the health care strategies themselves and the messaging used to promote those strategies.

 In days past, speed and efficiency of care provided the locus of health care strategy and marketing, and hospitals aggressively promoted shorter wait times.

  • The Detroit Medical Center website displays a list of current wait times for emergency services at all their campuses and offers a “Talk to a Nurse Right Now” button.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Health System in Hamilton, New Jersey came up with the “15/30 Guarantee” offers an evaluation within 15 minutes of arrival and a medical examination within 30.

These are still very important considerations for patients, but as an increasing number of family caregivers take a more active role in care outside the home, providers must offer services that appeal to caregivers and tailor healthcare strategies and communications to these intermediaries.

Understand the new layer in the patient-provider dynamic.

While patients are the ones receiving care, it is very likely that the caregivers are a primary decision-maker. And to caregivers, these patients have a face, a character, a personality. They see a spouse with Parkinson’s disease, a family member with Multiple Sclerosis, a recently widowed parent.

They’re looking for fast and efficient care, of course. But they’re looking for support and education to help them in the caregiver role.  They are also assessing more human qualities — things like openness, respect, courtesy and consideration. 

Those are the qualities that caregivers will discuss when they leave your facility. Those are the experiences they will share with friends. Impress them, and you’ll have a client for life. Disregard those qualities and you’ve given your customer an excuse to seek service elsewhere.

A single bad experience can outweigh tens of thousands of dollars of traditional marketing.

Here’s the bottom line.

Marketing your services to caregivers requires supplemental communication and health care strategies than the traditional patient-provider paradigm. It’s easy to stress things like efficiency and the technical excellence of your staff, but providers must learn how to market the intangible qualities that distinguish them from others.

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

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