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H&HN: Consumer Segmentation Just Hit Health Care

Diverse healthcare consumers

Hospitals & Health Networks® (H&HN) recently published an article written by Lola Butcher titled “Consumer Segmentation Just Hit Health Care. Here’s How It Works.” In the article, Butcher details how several pioneering health systems are using consumer segmentation to improve patient care. She points out that health systems routinely segment patients for various purposes, such as insurance status, risk stratification or marketing. However, what is new is combining previously untapped data and information from a wide range of sources, including patients themselves, and analyzing it to support more customized — and effective — care delivery.

“This kind of consumer insight research is standard practice in other industries,” said Dan Clarin, senior vice president at consulting firm Kaufman Hall & Associates. Clarin previously worked at Walgreens, one of many retailers with deep knowledge of customers’ preferences and buying habits. “There’s almost an air of inevitability that segmentation is going to have to come to health care. There are so many case examples in other industries that providers can look to and see that it has worked really well. So why aren’t we doing it?”

In fact, some health systems are now using psychographic segmentation with much success. What has been common practice for the most successful consumer companies like Walgreens and P&G is now being leveraged in more progressive healthcare organizations.

TriHealth Uses c2b solutions Psychographic Segmentation Model

One of the health systems featured in the H&HN article is TriHealth in Cincinnati, Ohio. TriHealth is leveraging c2b solutions’ psychographic segmentation model to classify patients with diabetes or musculoskeletal issues according to one of five “health personalities” based on their motivations and approaches to health and wellness. Psychographics pertain to people’s values, attitudes, personalities and lifestyles, and are a key to activating behavior change.

Terri Hanlon, chief operating officer of TriHealth Corporate Health, said, “As we all know, not everybody wants to engage in healthy behaviors on a regular basis consistently. So this nagging question in my mind has always been: What really motivates folks who do what they do?”

Health coaches have been trained to use their knowledge of the psychographic segments to customize their communications and enhance patient engagement. Patients answer a 12-question survey developed by c2b solutions and are classified as one of the following segments:

  • Direction Takers
  • Balance Seekers
  • Willful Endurers
  • Priority Jugglers
  • Self Achievers

“If someone is a Balance Seeker, you have to give them choices, and you cannot tell them what to do,” Hanlon says. “But with Direction Takers, you need to say, ‘I want you to do this,’ and they will take that and go with it.”

TriHealth Corporate Health conducted a three-month pilot program with 210 patients, which was deemed successful. The pilot program demonstrated that the consumer segmentation strategy improved goal attainment, which is how health coaches measure success. It also improved satisfaction for both participants and coaches.

“Where coaches in the past had been frustrated and thinking, ‘Oh, what do I do for this person? I’ve tried everything,’ all of a sudden, those frustrations were being resolved and eliminated, and the interaction became a win-win,” Hanlon indicated. “The coach felt good about her intervention with the individual, and the individuals felt good because they were meeting their goals.”

Hanlon continued, “We’re taking this to all of our health coaches, both in condition management and in wellness coaching. This will reach about 30 individual coaches and probably about 3,000 individuals.”

More Health Systems Taking the Lead in Consumer Segmentation

The H&HN article also highlights Novant Health, a four-state network based in Winston-Salem, N.C., is also developing a consumer segmentation strategy to inform the system’s interactions with patients.

“If we better understand our segments so we know what their preferences are and how they want to be engaged, we can become more aligned with their needs,” says Jesse Cureton, chief consumer officer at Novant Health. “The other side of the coin is about clinical care. Better engagement correlates with our ability to provide better health care and ultimately improve the health of the communities we are in.

Psychographic segmentation can lend itself to population health management. Just because a given population may share a common health condition does not mean each member of that population thinks and acts alike. Psychographic segmentation can avoid a “one size fits all” approach that limits the effectiveness of population health management.

Population Health News recently asked me to write an article for their publication discussing the application of psychographic segmentation to population health. Population Health News recognized that consumer segmentation has a role in health care, using consumer insights to supplement traditional approaches to improve the patient experience.

In the article, I detailed the methodology behind c2b solutions’ psychographic segmentation model and provided descriptions of the segments outlined by Terri Hanlon, of TriHealth, above (percentages reflect each segment’s incidence in the population):

  • Direction Takers (13%): Direction takers prefer to be told by healthcare professionals what they need to do; clinicians are the experts in their eyes. They like to cut to the chase and do not like to be asked a lot of questions. This segment reflects the way healthcare has been delivered traditionally; unfortunately, this model only resonates with 13% of the population.
  • Balance Seekers (18%): Balance seekers are also proactive and wellness oriented, but they downplay the role of healthcare professionals. They prefer options and suggestive approaches and are open to alternative medicine rather than being given an already mapped out route to wellness and directive healthcare.
  • Willful Endurers (27%): Willful Endurers are independent and the least proactive about their health. They live in the moment and do not focus on long-term benefits or consequences. The challenge is to find ways to motivate them toward adopting healthy behaviors through immediate gratification.
  • Priority Jugglers (18%): Priority Jugglers tend to be less proactive and engaged with their healthcare because they put other responsibilities ahead of personal health; however, they are proactive in managing their family’s health. They may require a higher level of interaction to keep them focused on their own healthy behaviors.
  • Self Achievers (24%): The most proactive and wellness-oriented group, Self Achievers are ready to be in the driver’s seat but appreciate directive guidance. Goal and task oriented, they appreciate measures to gauge progress in their efforts. They are the most willing to spend whatever it takes to be healthy.

Each psychographic segment has unique motivations and communication preferences. A healthcare provider or organization needs to understand these differences in order to maximize the impact of patient engagement.

Application of Consumer Data in Health Care

In the H&HN article, Dan Clarin, of consulting firm Kaufman Hall & Associates, outlines four ways consumer segmentation can be applied in health care:

  1. Engaging patients for purposes of population health management. A disease registry will provide a list of patients with diabetes, but those patients are hardly homogeneous. “Layering information about attitudes and motivations and fears on top of that clinical information to understand what is the best way to communicate with and engage with different types of patients is definitely an opportunity to improve their care,” Clarin says.
  2. Messaging. Knowing a consumer’s behaviors and attitudes helps health systems to know what type of message likely will produce a response.
  3. Service distribution strategy. “Understanding which consumer segments are more prevalent in certain neighborhoods could help you determine what types of providers and what types of services to place in different parts of your market,” Clarin says.
  4. New service or product development. Recognizing that pregnant women are not all alike, MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Wash., invites expectant moms to choose their own mode of care. The standard regimen of in-office prenatal visits and classes generally appeals to first-time mothers, while second-time and stay-at-home mothers may opt for some group visits led by a nurse practitioner. Working mothers, meanwhile, tend to like completely virtual visits with an NP, supplemented with standard ob-gyn visits when needed.

In the case of TriHealth, health coaches were trained in psychographic insights for one-to-one coaching with patients. This has proven effective with hundreds or thousands of patients at a time, but what if a healthcare organization wants to reach hundreds of thousands or millions of healthcare consumers at a time? One-to-one, personal interaction using psychographic segmentation becomes a significant resource investment at best, or infeasible at worst.

Fortunately, technology can now facilitate customized, psychographic messaging over large populations. PatientBond is a platform that automates healthcare consumer communications (i.e., email, text/SMS, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), portals, etc.) with messaging based on consumers’ psychographic segment. PatientBond addresses such things as medication adherence, missed appointments, emergency room avoidance, health education, and many other critical topics facing hospitals and health systems.

In one major health system providing care for rural, Hispanic and other underserved populations, PatientBond reduced missed appointments by 22 percent, adding +$70,000 in revenue per month for the health system. A prestigious East Coast hospital is piloting PatientBond in its spinal surgery unit, to reduce hospital readmissions following surgery. After a couple months, the results have been very positive.

Segmentation has been used for years by leading consumer products companies and retailers to change consumer behaviors, and now these approaches are starting to be used in health care. A few pioneering health systems are recognizing early wins, but these capabilities will no doubt find widespread adoption as healthcare organizations adapt for success in a consumer-driven environment. This is especially true as reimbursement is increasingly tied to medical outcomes (hinged on patient behavior change) and patient satisfaction.

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


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