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How to Reach Health Care Consumers Who Don't Prioritize Their Health


Red haired young woman yawningNo matter what business you’re in within the health care industry, you are in the business of marketing to health care consumers.

Consumers who are interested and actively engaged in maintaining their health are low-hanging fruit; they’re easy to reach.

But with the Affordable Care Act set to impact your organization's margins, it's time to start thinking about how you're going to reach the scores of consumers who do not think about their own wellness.

And you can start by utilizing segmented health care market research that identifies those factors that are instrumental in the consumer’s decision-making process.

Consumers’ motivations and priorities differ widely.

If you are marketing without these priorities in mind, you are doing your organization a disservice. Shotgun approaches do not work. You need to understand your target audience’s attitude and preconceptions before crafting your message.

Our 2013 health care market research Consumer Diagnostic found that:

  • 40% respondents were either not actively seeking any sort of health care guidance or were not doing anything to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Conversely, 40% of those surveyed are engaged in maintaining their wellness and actively seeking information about ways to stay healthy— only 1 out of 4, however, indicated that they sought direct instruction from health care professionals.
  • 18% of respondents claimed to be self-sufficient in making health care decisions and did not seek or desire direction from health care professionals, unless absolutely necessary.

That’s quite a lot of disengagement to overcome.

Understanding the disengaged.

The level of consumer apathy out there is somewhat surprising, if not outright alarming.

Among the disengaged, we found that many openly acknowledged that their behaviors were unhealthy (smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, etc.), but they enjoyed these behaviors to such an extent that they were unwilling or unable to change their habits.

  • Almost 30% of respondents stated that they knew what they should be doing to be healthy, but just didn’t make it priority.
  • 22% considered themselves “couch potatoes.”
  • 15% said they just did not have enough time to devote to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Perhaps the most disturbing were consumers who were passionately dispassionate about their health:

  • 17% said that there are better things to focus on than healthy behaviors.
  • 16% stated that they are just willing to accept their current state of health and will thus do nothing to change it.

Obviously, marketing to these individuals is going to be an uphill battle.

So how do you win the hearts and minds of people who are not open to your messaging?

Messaging will be different in every case. Once you understand a health care consumer segment’s reasons for disengagement, you can begin to undermine their motivations. For a case study, let’s examine smokers.

As noted above, many who reported wellness disengagement in the Consumer Diagnostic said that they enjoyed an unhealthy behavior too much to stop or were unable to change bad habits.

Many smokers have historically cited these as reasons they cannot, or will not, quit; they fully acknowledge that they know smoking is detrimental to their health, but they either derive enjoyment from smoking or believe they are too addicted to stop.

For smokers, however, consequence-based messaging has been demonstrably effective.

January, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the US Surgeon General’s first report on the dangers of tobacco use. Since that initial landmark report detailing the link between smoking and lung cancers, emphysema and other chronic conditions, the Surgeon General’s Office states that smoking prevalence among Americans has been reduced by half.

In Canada, the placement of graphic warning labels showing damaged lungs, smoking-related disease-ravaged bodies and other disturbing imagery resulted in an estimated 12 to 20 percent reduction in smoking rates between 2000-2009.

A recent relative analysis predicted that similar implementation of graphic warning labels in the United States, as was initially planned for 2012, could have resulted in a decrease of between 5.3 to 8.6 million smokers.

Of the 5 patient populations discovered in our health care market research, one segment— the Willful Endurers— stands out as the most disengaged and statistically likely (95% confidence) to be smokers.

To follow through with this example, imagine that you are marketing a tobacco addiction treatment program, public health organization, or pulmonology group.

Using segmented health care market research to identify smokers’ objections to quitting, you could look for effective ways to overcome them. If you know that some smokers either don’t want to— or believe they can’t— quit, you can craft a campaign that shows them the awful consequences of inaction, communicating in an effective segment-specific manner.

You, in essence, use their own concerns and segment-specific motivations to compel them into action.

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


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