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Population Health:  Psychographic Segmentation Improves Patient Engagement

Population Health News

The term “population health” has been growing in use over the past several years, though it has been described in a multitude of ways.  Authors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in a perspective piece published in the January 8, 2015 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, stated that:

The term ‘population health’ has been used to describe both a clinical perspective focused on delivering care to groups enrolled in a health system and a broader perspective that focuses on the health of all people in a given geographic area and emphasizes multisector approaches and incorporation of nonclinical interventions to address social determinants of health.”

CMS has committed to improving the health of the U.S. population through its CMS Quality Strategy, by supporting proven interventions to address behavioral, social and environmental determinants of health in addition to delivering higher quality care.

The CMS has also promoted the Triple Aim, which boosted the use of the term ‘population health.’  The Triple Aim proposes three linked goals:  improving the individual experience of care; reducing per capita cost of care; and improving the health of populations.

So important is the concept of population health that resources are being developed to support healthcare organizations in their efforts and to educate stakeholders on successful approaches throughout the U.S. healthcare system.  One such resource is Population Health News, a monthly publication featuring informative articles, thought leader insights, industry briefs, and profiles of industry leaders.  Its Editorial Advisory Board includes experts from across health systems, insurance, consultancies and academia. 

In an effort to bring its readers cutting edge insights and innovative approaches, Population Health News asked c2b solutions to write a front page article on psychographic segmentation for its February 2016 issue.  This article is titled, “Psychographic Segmentation: Innovation in Patient Engagement.” 

Population Health News and Psychographic Segmentation

While population health addresses a broad group of healthcare consumers, a “one size fits all” approach to care and communications will limit the efforts’ effectiveness.  Psychographic segmentation groups healthcare consumers according to their attitudes, lifestyles, personalities and values, so that patient engagement can be customized according to their motivations.

As the article states, “Many healthcare organizations already segment patients according to various criteria, such as health conditions, age and gender.  While these segments are united by physical similarities and often have common needs, the individuals within each segment do not think and act alike.”  Psychographics help healthcare providers tap into why patients act as they do, to provide context to the wealth of behavioral and utilization data in their electronic medical/health records, which tell what a patient is doing.

The article uses c2b solutions’ psychographic segmentation model as an example and shares its practical application with healthcare providers.  By answering 12 simple questions, a healthcare consumer can be classified as one of five distinct psychographic segments with 91.1% predictability.  The percentage following the psychographic segment name below represents the percentage of the general population represented by that segment:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Priority Jugglers (18%) – Priority Jugglers tend to be less proactive and engaged with their own 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.
  • 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.
  • Direction Takers (13%) – Direction Takers prefer to be told by healthcare professionals what they need to do; after all, 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 resonates with only 13% of the population.

Each psychographic segment is unique in its motivations and communications preferences.  Optimizing patient engagement – whether it is a one-on-one relationship between clinicians and patients or through non-personal channels, such as digital, print or television, involves segment-specific messaging.

Practical Application of Psychographic Segmentation

The Population Health News article references efforts by TriHealth, a large health system in Cincinnati, to use psychographic segmentation with its health coaches, as covered in an issue of Quality Matters by The Commonwealth Fund. Patients are classified through psychographic segmentation and health coaches use psychographic insights to help patients with diabetes and musculoskeletal conditions achieve their care goals.  Coaches are significantly reducing the time it takes to deliver meaningful guidance with the bonds formed by stronger connections with patients.

Psychographic segmentation can be leveraged in the healthcare setting, but the NEJM authors from CMS point out:

“For medical practices, which are structured around individual, face-to-face encounters, pursuing a population-based approach means considering what happens between visits; using patient registries and other tools to improve the use of preventive care services; addressing health disparities by considering social, economic, and cultural factors; and referring patients to a wider range of community services.”

How might healthcare providers engage patients between visits?  PatientBond is an example of a platform that automates patient communications (phone calls, texts, emails) and personalizes messages according to psychographic segment preferences.  PatientBond allows patients to answer segmentation questions in-office, online or through mobile devices, integrating with a health system’s EMR to capture this classification and address issues such as medication adherence, missed appointments, and readmission avoidance. 

While automated patient communications platforms are not new, PatientBond is the only one to use psychographic segmentation to optimize messaging.  PatientBond is also cost effective, even for smaller hospitals and health systems.  Its set-up and communications costs are highly competitive and its clients are enjoying a respectable return on investment (or return on engagement).  For example, one health system in the Southwest providing care for underserved patients (i.e., rural, large Hispanic population) has seen revenues increase $70,000 per month by reducing missed appointments and is exploring expanded use of the PatientBond system.

PatientBond will be showcasing its innovation at the 2016 HIMSS Conference & Exhibition  (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) in booth 4674 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. from Feb. 29 – March 4, 2016.

Join us at the HIMMS Conference

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


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