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Consumer Segmentation May Enhance Patient Compliance

doctor-smiling-with-patientsRecently, researchers at Yale School of Medicine released study results showing a $296 million jump in Medicare spending on breast cancer screening in less than a decade. The reason? According to one of the study’s authors, Dr. Cary Gross, the answer lies in technology — specifically the transition to digital mammography machines and computer-aided detection as opposed to film-based equipment.

While studies show that the digital technology has proven more accurate at detecting cancer in younger women, the advantages for older women are less clear. What is clear is that even as they are investing in more advanced diagnostic tools, hospitals should also be segmenting consumer populations to better identify the patients that will benefit from the technology. This would also help hospitals employ methods that ensure all appropriate patients take steps to access this technology.  

Higher Spending, Mixed Results

Despite the jump in spending for mammogram screenings, doctors are not detecting cancer any earlier among older, Medicare recipients.

With the digital takeover nearly complete — 95 percent of mammography machines are now digital — taking the lower cost, film-based equipment out of retirement for a specific demographic is not an option. Nor, some argue, should it be.

Radiologists suggest that despite the fact that digital mammograms do not improve early detection across generations, the technology offers other advantages:

  • Instant imaging allows technologists to adjust contrast during the screening.
  • Fewer mammograms need to be redone due to poor film exposures.
  • Patients can get results more quickly.
  • Doctors can store images easily for better tracking of breast health over time.
  • Shareable image format facilitates consultations with colleagues.

The researchers suggest that the study results “underscore the importance of fully discussing the efficacy, cost and insurance coverage of future technologies.” They also bring to light the importance of segmenting consumer populations in order to tailor health messaging and initiatives to engage patients.

The digital mammography machines, for example, have proven more effective at detecting breast cancer early among younger women. With this in mind, a health care provider might target that demographic with messaging about early detection. Meanwhile, the provider might target an older demographic with other advantages, such as a reduced likelihood of having to retake images later.

Both approaches could lead to the desired outcome — increasing the number of patients who comply with recommended practices to ensure breast health.

Greater Consumer Insights, Higher Patient Compliance

It may seem as though the higher costs of digital mammography is at odds with efforts to reduce overall healthcare costs. Certainly, with any new technology, hospitals will generate additional expenses in equipment acquisition and training. That is why patient engagement and compliance is critical.

As we’ve noted in the past, patient activation serves a dual purpose — improving health outcomes for individual patients while also driving down costs.

In the February 2013 issues of Health Affairs, a University of Oregon study reported that engaged patient — those who were well-informed and confident about managing their own health and healthcare — had lower healthcare costs than other patients. This was especially true among patients with chronic conditions such as asthma or high blood pressure.

Segmenting consumer populations based on their propensity to actively participate in personal health requires a more in-depth perspective, one that goes beyond demographics or shared health characteristics. This is precisely why c2b solutions offers psychographic segmentation that taps into consumer motivations such as personality, values or lifestyles to help healthcare organizations improve patient engagement.

c2b solutions identified five distinct psychographic segments based on how consumers approach health and wellness. Each segment has its own motivations and preferences for education and communications.

Significantly, the c2b Consumer Diagnostic, based on a national study of nearly 5,000 consumers, found that 40% of patients with breast cancer are among the Willful Endurer psychographic segment. This can have profound implications, because Willful Endurers are the least wellness-oriented segment among the five segments. They are among the most challenging to activate and be compliant to their medications. 

However, with the right recalibration of priorities and segment-specific messaging, Willful Endurers can be motivated to make positive health behavior changes. 

In a post on the Health Care Blog, the Patient Activation study’s authors suggest that hospitals must “… determine the amount and type of support they need to give to help patients gain the skills to manage their health conditions successfully [in order to build] a health care system that can control costs and help patients to become healthier.” 

Ask us how segmenting consumer populations using c2b solutions can help health care organizations achieve higher level of engagement.

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


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