Understanding Why and How Patients Choose Where to Get Their Healthcare
As health systems rely more heavily on marketing efforts, the importance of understanding your audience becomes paramount -- not only who they are, but how they make their decisions. If marketers aren’t seeing a significant return on investment, it might be that they’re marketing to the wrong audience or sending their audience the wrong message.
The best way to ensure you’re sending the right message to the right people? Understanding your ideal patients’ decision-making process of how and why they choose where to get their healthcare. Looking at traditional indicators like demographics and social determinants of health are not sufficient for gaining this understanding. Instead, a new methodology, like a psychographic segmentation model, can provide more in-depth information on the choices of the ideal patients you want to attract.
Where We’ve Found Data in the Past
Demographics aren’t dead, but they don’t tell the whole story. For instance, demographics can help predict which portion of the population will spend the most on healthcare. A study done in 2016 showed that nearly half of all healthcare spending in the U.S. came from about one-quarter of the population -- those over the age of 55. However, demographic information won’t show why those over the age of 55 chose the practices and hospitals they chose. You can decide to market to this demographic because you’ll hit a quarter of the population, but you won’t know how to tailor your messaging to resonate with them.
Social determinants of health are the social and economic conditions of how where a person lives impacts their health status. This can range from someone’s access to safe housing to physical barriers that limit the mobility of people with disabilities. While this information can speak to potential issues that patients experience, it won’t show the reasoning of those patients to choose or not choose certain healthcare options and providers.
Finally, a patient’s past behavior of attending or skipping doctor’s appointments or taking or missing their medicines could predict their likelihood of repeating those same actions. However, looking only at past behavior doesn’t explain the motivations for that behavior.
When it comes to the above metrics, you’re only getting part of the story - just the decisions people are making. What will elevate your marketing and acquisition ROI is when you can understand how and why patients make those decisions.
Psychographic Segmentation Can Indicate Choices
Psychographic segmentation divides the U.S. population into five segments according to their values, lifestyles and attitudes:
Once you know which segment most of your patients fit into, you can more accurately create messaging that speaks to their specific motivations for choosing where to get their healthcare.
For example, say there is a new clinic opening that will specialize in diabetes care. According to the 2018 PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic, which is a nationally-representative study on healthcare consumers in the U.S., Self Achievers and Direction Takers are significantly more likely to have diabetes than the other three segments. The new clinic can now take this information and better craft their messaging to resonate with Self Achievers and Direction Takers, as they are more likely to use their services.
Healthcare providers can even offer their patients a short, patient classifier quiz, to begin to understand which of their current patients are in which segments. By surveying current patients, healthcare systems can better understand the segments that have chosen their particular facility. Using psychographic segmentation can help healthcare systems in their patient acquisition efforts by more accurately understanding the patients who have already chosen to go with them.
Healthcare Consumer vs. Regular Consumer
In all of this, it’s important to remember the difference between a healthcare consumer and a patient. A healthcare consumer may or may not be sick. They may be in generally good health but trying to enhance themselves and be even healthier. They can choose to invest in a new gym membership or which doctor they’d like to visit for preventive care. A patient is a kind of healthcare consumer: one who receives care. They are given a treatment regimen from a healthcare provider and can choose to follow it or not.
Additionally, healthcare consumers are different from regular consumers. While psychographic segmentation has been used for years in the retail industry, it has only recently been adapted to healthcare. It must be recognized that healthcare consumers do not typically bear the total cost of a service for sick care, as they are covered by insurance. Also, their choice in service and provider may be restrained by that insurance coverage.
It’s also important to use healthcare consumer data instead of broad consumer data when determining why and how patients make healthcare choices. According to the same 2018 PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic, 34% of Self Achievers prefer to receive marketing information about a healthcare service provider by email. That number could be different when looking at a study of the general consumer population.
As technology continues to advance, so does our ability to understand people and their behaviors. Healthcare providers have a great opportunity here to use psychographic segmentation to not only understand what their patients do and decide, but they can also see why they do and decide those particular things. Then, marketers can craft better messaging, design more impactful pieces and truly speak to their ideal patients.
Download our case study to take a closer look at psychographic segmentation and how it can be used with digital marketing to increase patient acquisition.