Does Cancer Change a Person’s Attitudes Toward Health Care?
Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Too true — whether you’re a nation outnumbered by an enemy or a patient facing a cancer diagnosis and subsequent battle for health. As National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month winds to a close, it’s a good time for healthcare organizations to explore how attitudes vary among both typical consumers and those with cancer — and how psychographic segmentation can lead to more effective communication among patient with cancer and others at risk of developing cancer.
Are Your Awareness-Building Initiatives Working?
Colon Cancer Alliance encouraged healthcare professionals, cancer survivors and their families to celebrate Dress in Blue Day™ on March 6. In Michigan, two hospitals transformed their lobbies with a 20-foot-long inflatable Super Colon for visitors to walk through while cancer team staff handed out educational materials and answered questions about colon cancer. And throughout the year, communities nationwide feature Undy Walks/Runs to raise awareness and funding for colon cancer research.
Despite all of those efforts, however, colon cancer continues to rank as the nation’s second leading cause of cancer death in men and women. Since the disease has a 90 percent survival rate when caught early, it’s clear that awareness — and more importantly, engagement efforts — are not always hitting their mark. African American men and women, for example, have a 20 percent higher diagnosis rate and 45 percent higher mortality rate. Yet, even with a more targeted campaign for an at-risk population based on ethnicity or age, hospitals may not generate the desired engagement. Why? Because they are still looking at an incomplete picture of healthcare consumers.
Looking Beyond the Diagnosis
When healthcare providers are immersed in caring for individuals with a shared diagnosis like colon cancer, you are able to quickly recognize that different physical conditions demand changes in the treatment approach. Granted, those physical variations among patients can be obvious — current health, age, physical reactions to therapies — and therefore easy to identify.
What isn’t as readily apparent are the unique personality traits — a person’s hardwired motivations, values, beliefs, lifestyle and attitude towards health and wellness — that also influence how he or she responds to a care plan. Your patient communications, educational outreach and marketing will likely fall short if they take a one-size-fits-all approach based on a common diagnosis or health risk.
What’s the alternative?
Healthcare Consumer Research and Psychographic Segmentation
In order to achieve better outcomes with patients and drive engagement with at-risk populations, healthcare providers need to understand healthcare consumers at a deeper level. The proprietary psychographic segmentation model developed by PatientBond helps group individuals into segments based on traits such as motivations, values, and attitudes towards health and wellness with 91.1 percent predictability.
The PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic — based on extensive healthcare consumer market research as well as on-going trend analysis — shows the degree to which a cancer diagnosis changes attitudes about healthcare from the general population. More importantly, it identifies distinct psychographic segments to show meaningful variations in the attitudes among those who have cancer in common.
Let’s look at some of these insights and how this knowledge can improve patient outreach.
- Compared to the general population, survey respondents with cancer are more than 2 times as likely to be vocal about being healthy.
- Respondents with cancer are 2.6 times more likely to appreciate clear direction and instruction from healthcare professionals.
- However, 64 percent of respondents with colon cancer said they did not want to give up things they enjoy including unhealthy habits (e.g., eating, alcohol, smoking), reflecting a level of disengagement that was significantly greater (at 95% confidence) than those diagnosed with other types of cancer.
Despite the fact that patients with cancer respond with some similarity to the “wake-up call” of their diagnosis, there are clear deviations within this population when it comes to engagement.
Looking at the PatientBond Psychographic Segments among patients with cancer, Balance Seekers, for example, are generally more proactive about their health, but rely on the Internet as their top source for information as opposed to healthcare providers.
While one might assume that the occurrence of cancer would heighten a patient’s estimation of healthcare professionals, the opposite happens with Balance Seekers. For perspective, the percentage of respondents who Strongly Agreed/Agreed with the statement “My doctor is the most credible authority for my health & wellness needs” was as follows:
- General Population: 56%
- Balance Seekers without cancer: 19%
- Balance Seekers with cancer: 11%
This is the complete opposite of the attitude among Self Achievers with cancer, 88% of whom Strongly Agreed/Agreed with this statement. Self Achievers are also proactive about their health and wellness-oriented. Balance Seekers and Self Achievers may appear similar in their proactive behaviors and it would be easy to mistake their motivations as similar. However, their attitudes and beliefs are extremely different with regard to healthcare professionals, and patient engagement efforts should take this into account.
The other three segments — Willful Endurers, Priority Jugglers are Direction Takers — are reactive in their approach to health, but how you activate them toward positive behaviors is different by segment. Understanding how these segments are likely to respond allows hospitals to fine tune their communications with patients — or the larger population — to overcome barriers and truly drive engagement.
You can download our whitepaper The Truth About Patient Engagement and Activation for additional insights into the PatientBond Psychographic Segments.