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How Can We Create Health Literature That Engages Consumers?

Health Literacy Books for Patients

Each month, healthcare providers have a new reminder that patient engagement strategies represent an important part of managing the health of specific patient populations. This month, that reminder comes in the guise of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), more than 29,000 men die of the disease, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Yet, when diagnosed and treated early, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent and the 10-year survival rate is 98 percent. Hospitals, primary care physicians and insurers alike have an interest in developing effective communications to engage healthcare consumers early enough to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Creating the Right Health Literacy Tools for Your Audience

One in seven men will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Based on that statistic, you might assume that your target audience for health literature is clear — every man of a certain age. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with one-size-fits-all approaches of the past, there are many variables that impact how well your patient engagement strategies work. Let’s look at it from the top down:

Where are your patients?

Rural, urban or suburban — location can influence accessibility to healthcare information and care. Your literature and online tools need to address geographic considerations that individuals face given location. For instance, a study conducted with the support of the WWAMI Rural Health Research Center with funding from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services took a closer look at treatment options and treatments pursued by early-stage prostate cancer patients in both urban and rural counties across 10 states to identify variations in treatment. The findings published last year revealed that while most patients were able to get the recommended treatments, a lack of local evaluation and treatment centers in rural areas and the burden of travel to urban centers were issues for rural patients. Outreach efforts for these rural patients need to address such barriers to pursing proper treatment.

Who are your patients?

Even more critical to effective patient engagement strategies is understanding the demographic and socioeconomic segments you want to engage. Gender, age, race, religion, education — all of these patient characteristics also need to be considered in developing patient education materials and engagement plans. This holds true for prostate health literature. In recent years, for example, the recommendation for “watchful waiting” instead of aggressive treatment has met with controversy because they fly in the face of one key fact: Simply monitoring early-stage prostate cancer instead of treating it may not be the best approach for African-American men, according to a study published in Urologic Oncology last year.

Dr. Kosj Yamoah, chief resident in the radiation oncology department at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia notes, “Our study shows that African-American men who are diagnosed with a low-grade cancer at first — the cancers that are sometimes watched rather than treated — are more likely to develop aggressive disease sooner than Caucasian men.” Seven years after surgery, 90 percent of Caucasians had good disease control while only 79 percent of African-Americans could make the same claim. As a result, a universal approach for prostate health literature will not address critical issues that African-American patients need to realize the desired ROI on patient engagement strategies.

What are their attitudes towards healthcare?

Even with a clear view of the geographic and demographic segments your health literature is targeting, your message might still go off the mark. That’s because individuals are unique regardless of shared physical or geographic characteristics — and you need to understand what motivates them, who influences them and how they behave in order to engage patients effectively. The proprietary c2b solutions’ psychographic segmentation model breaks down target audiences by their attitudes towards health and wellness. The five groups include:

  • Balance Seekers – Proactive and wellness oriented, likes options and choices but believes a healthcare professional is only one information source among many to consider in determining a course of action
  • Willful Endurers - Reactive and often disengaged with health, lives for the moment and does not change their habits very easily.
  • Priority Jugglers – Put family or work ahead of their own health.  Reactive toward health for themselves, but proactive in making sure their loved ones get the care they need.        
  • Self Achievers – The most proactive and wellness oriented of the segments.  Invests in their health and appearance and likes goals and benchmarks to measure progress against tasks.             
  • Direction Takers – Needs directive guidance from healthcare professionals.  Generally wants to follow clinicians’ advice, but may struggle if it’s difficult to incorporate into their routines.

Among these groups, for example, Willful Endurers, Self Achievers and Direction Takes are statistically more likely (95% confidence) to have prostate cancer than Balance Seekers, and directionally more likely than Priority Jugglers. Understanding how these psychographic segments vary in their motivations and communication preferences allows hospitals and other organizations to execute truly relevant patient engagement strategies that reach the right people with the right message at the right time. And that’s the kind of patient education that can lead to more positive outcomes for healthcare consumers.  

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

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