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How Psychographics Can Persuade the Underserved to Get Primary Care


The Commonwealth Fund has called primary care the “first line of defense” in addressing the goals of healthcare reform—improving quality of care and reducing per capita medical costs. The shortage of primary care health services contributes to the challenges medically underserved populations face, but it isn’t the only challenge.

Age, income, health literacy and language barriers contribute to the problem. In the absence of a trusted primary care physician, many medically underserved patients end up in hospital emergency rooms for ordinary complaints like earaches and miss out on much-needed support for chronic conditions. Using psychographics can help persuade these patients to get primary care physicians.


Psychographic Segmentation Shows How to Engage Underserved

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health Interview Survey found that while 92.4 percent of children had contact with a healthcare provider in 2014, the percentage of adults who saw a physician in the same time period was more than 9 percent lower. Whether a patient lacks a primary care physician due to a shortage of providers or indifference in selecting one, psychographic segmentation and automated communications can help underserved patients connect and stay engaged with a primary care physician.

What can you learn from psychographic segmentation?  The 12-question c2b Consumer Classifier breaks down healthcare consumers into one of five psychographic segments—each with unique motivations and communication preferences.

Balance Seekers, for example, are generally proactive when it comes to health, but rely on a variety of resources—not just healthcare professionals—for health advice. Willful Endurers, on the other hand, live in the moment and only go to the doctor as a last resort. Obviously, these segments need very different messaging than a proactive Self-Achiever, who stays on top of health issues, or Direction Takers who trust physicians the most but struggle to follow their guidance.  

Balance Seekers, for example, are generally
proactive when it comes to health, but rely on a variety of resources—not just healthcare professionals—for health advice.

By better understanding individual beliefs and attitudes that influence patient behaviors, a physician, health insurance company, employee benefits consultant (EBC) or an employer can improve the relevance of communications to effectively activate and engage healthcare consumers. What does a real-world psychographic segmentation example look like?

One national health insurance company asked an EBC to help them encourage its clients’ covered employees to select a primary care physician (PCP) using an online registration site. Despite having insurance through their employers, the health insurance company realized that employees without a designated PCP incurred 20 percent higher health expenses annually. At an average of $180 per employee a year, the costs escalated quickly.

Working with c2b solutions, the EBC targeted 598 predominantly blue collar employees across three clients for a pilot program that used psychographic segmentation and the PatientBond automated patient engagement platform to persuade employees to sign up with a PCP. Through a series of emails, text messages and voicemails, employees received three communications over the course of a week to encourage them to take the 12-question Consumer Classifier. Forty-three percent of the targeted employees responded and were classified by psychographic segment.


The EBC crafted segment-specific messaging that included instructions for selecting a PCP via the health insurance company’s website. Despite an inopportune outage of the online enrollment site on the first day of communications, which hampered users’ attempts to sign up, 63 employees acted during the pilot program. The advantages multiplied quickly— an anticipated $11,340 reduction in annual claims costs for the insurer among this limited set of pilot participants. But extrapolated to millions of members/employees, the insurer and its employer clients could realize significant potential cost savings.

More importantly, underserved patients now have primary care services they need. As the Commonwealth Fund noted, “The evidence shows that good access to primary care can help us live longer, feel better, and avoid disability and long absences from work.”

Now imagine the impact of leveraging psychographic segmentation and automated communications on a broader scale—talk about transforming healthcare for patients, healthcare providers and insurers, alike. What’s missing in your engagement efforts to bring medically underserved patients on board?

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