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Is Healthcare Consumerism a Solution for Lack of Patient Engagement?

healthy businessmanIf your employer offered you a free FitBit, would it motivate you to adopt healthier behavior? What about plain hard cash?

In the age of healthcare consumerism, organizations — from hospitals and employers to private insurers, pharmacies and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — are looking for an edge to improve personal engagement in health and wellness. This is particularly important when managing high utilizers who, according to CMS data, represent only 5 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries, but account for 54 percent of Medicaid spending. And figures are similar among private insurers.

Rewarding Personal Responsibility

Just last month, Kaiser Health News (KHN) reported on one state’s efforts to improve healthy decision-making among its citizens.  

Michigan has followed Iowa’s example, offering lower premiums and cost sharing to Medicaid beneficiaries if they participate in an annual health risk assessment with their regular physician and work to quit smoking or lose weight.

Stephen Fitton, Michigan Medicaid Director, notes that while the program could help control Medicaid spending, the state is also “… really trying to find ways in which we can make the population of Michigan healthier.” 

The program offers a $50 gift card incentive for patients who get the assessment. The state also hopes that the financial stakes — potential penalties such as a lien on tax refunds should participants fail to pay into the health care savings account — will help them “move the needle” on improving population health.

They will, however, have to approach the penalties carefully.

According to a KHN poll, 75 percent of Americans are opposed to financial penalties related to employer wellness programs and are likely to have a similar response to government wellness initiatives.  The 2013 c2b Consumer Diagnostic found similar results, where only 36% of consumers agreed that health insurance companies should penalize members for unhealthy behaviors (e.g., increased premiums or copays).

Wearable Technology as Healthy Lifestyle Incentive

So, back to the earlier FitBit question — is the latest tech gadget a sufficient motivator to inspire healthier choices? That’s just what software company Autodesk hoped when it began offering the wearable technology to employees in 2011. And it worked with 50 percent of their employees.

According to an article in Fortune, among employees who accepted the activity-tracking device, awareness about the number of steps taken each day led to some “friendly competition” and behavior changes such as parking further from the office or taking the longer route to meetings. Oil giant BP is also using the FitBit for its Million Step Challenge, part of the company’s overall wellness program.

In fact, ABI Research estimates that before 2020, more than 13 million wearable devices will be tracking fitness activity within employee wellness programs. But what about the 50 percent of Autodesk employees — and millions of other workers– who won’t leap on the chance to get a “smart” band?  

Insurance companies and employers — and hospitals, for that matter — need to find other methods to encourage healthier lifestyles based on unique motivators among their audiences.

That means appealing to the factors behind consumers’ motivations:

  • Values
  • Principles
  • Beliefs
  • Emotions
  • Personality
  • Interests
  • Lifestyle

This more detailed perspective allows organizations to develop multi-faceted wellness programs that effectively engage a higher percentage of the targeted consumers. 

Healthcare Consumerism Demands Patient-Centric Approaches

A one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare marketing or disease management will see limited success. Why? For the same reason that retailers know so well: consumers have different goals, concerns, and motivations — even within the same demographic. We already know that a standardized approach to all diabetes patients, for example, does not lead to better outcomes for all patients.

As healthcare consumerism increases, providers, along with private and public insurers, need deeper insights into the individual variances in order to craft meaningful patient engagements that positively influence behavior.

Psychographic segmentation offers organizations the necessary insights to craft more engaging, effective communications to inspire and empower individuals to take control of personal wellness.  c2b solutions has identified five, distinct psychographic segments in their approach to health and wellness:

  • Self Achievers — The most proactive, wellness-oriented segment; Invests in health and appearance;  Prioritizes physician engagement; Goals and measure-driven; Competitive
  • Balance Seekers — The next most wellness-oriented; Self-directed and does not rely on healthcare professionals;  High vitamins/minerals/supplements and alternative medicine use.
  • Priority Jugglers — Prioritizes family and responsibilities over own health and wellness.  Thus, they ensure others get the care they need, but often ignore their own needs until they have to address them.
  • Direction Takers — Reactive and need prescriptive guidance from healthcare professionals.  Once they receive this direction, they typically follow it.
  • Willful Endurers — The least wellness-oriented; Lives for the moment and has a difficult time changing habits; Least compliant and very independent

Each segment has its own motivations and preferences for education and communications. It takes a different proposition to drive patient activation for each of these consumer types. 

Referring to the FitBit again, the Self Achievers are the natural segment to target for early adoption, and Balance Seekers are more than likely to discover it as they do their own research on these options. Those two segments make up 42% of the population, close to the 50% of Autodesk employees who adopted the FitBit. Now, it is more than likely that all five segments are represented among the 50% of Autodesk FitBit adopters, but it’s also likely there is a heavy weighting toward the most proactive segments.

So what about the more reactive segments, or the other 58% of consumers who are more difficult to activate? It is more challenging, but it can certainly be done. c2b solutions has experience successfully activating Willful Endurers toward health interventions.

The key is framing your proposition in terms that resonate with the patient’s priorities and motivations. Granted, excellent medical care, habit change and sustained results require many variables and considerations, but engaging patients in a consumer-centric way is a good start to transformative healthcare.

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


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