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How Psychographic Segmentation Debunks Healthcare Consumerism Myths 


(Image via Tomi Um / NYT The Upshot)

Abraham Verghese, MD, professor of medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine and recipient of a 2016 National Humanities Medal, has said, “The bottom line: healthcare reform is about the patient, not about the physician.”

While Dr. Verghese was referring to the human side of practicing medicine, his words are equally relevant in light of increasing healthcare consumerism. In fact, in surveying healthcare consumers about how satisfied they were with their hospital experiences, McKinsey found that “… the empathy and support provided by health professionals (especially nurses) had a greater impact than outcomes.” The survey also revealed that the quality of communications both during and after treatment also significantly influenced patient satisfaction.

These results also counter one common misconception about healthcare consumerism, says McKinsey: Consumers know what they want from healthcare companies and what drives their decisions. In reality, what consumers think matters most and what actually influences their perception of the hospital experiences are often at odds.

Psychographic segmentation—which classifies healthcare consumers based on their preferences, attitudes and subconscious beliefs about health and wellness—can help hospitals break down this and other myths about healthcare consumerism.

Myth-busting with psychographics

In the McKinsey article, “Debunking common myths about healthcare consumerism,” the authors offer a number of other healthcare consumer myths that hospitals should consider when developing strategies to attract, engage and maintain ongoing relationships with healthcare consumers.

Below, we explore a few of them—and how the use of healthcare data and analytics, including psychographic segmentation, can offer insights that break those myths down.

Myth #1:

Consumers don’t bring the same expectations to healthcare as they do to retail or hospitality industries.

We touched on this in a blog with our sister company PatientBond previously. While healthcare consumers may not approach price-shopping for a knee replacement with the same enthusiasm as an afternoon of retail therapy, they do have high expectations when it comes to healthcare experiences.

And as the McKinsey study revealed, how effectively healthcare providers communicate with patients plays a critical role. The use of psychographic segmentation enables hospitals and other providers to understand how individual healthcare consumers want to interact with them. This is because psychographics pertain to people’s values, attitudes, personalities and lifestyles, and are the key to understanding a person’s motivations, priorities and communication preferences.


The 5 Psychographic Segments

That’s regardless of whether their preferences run to the clear, goal-oriented wellness advice desired by the psychographic segment known as Self Achievers, or lists of information sources and treatment options to satisfy independent-minded Balance Seekers. c2b solutions has identified five distinct psychographic segments related to health & wellness, each with unique priorities and motivations.

Myth #2:

Consumers focus on premium price as the only crucial factor in purchase decisions.

Premium prices certainly play a role in purchase decisions, giving way to a rise of High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs). However, McKinsey points out that a significant percentage of people selected mid-priced plans rather than those offering the lowest premiums. Factors such as preferred provider organizations, prescription benefits, or coverage for alternative care options like acupuncture or chiropractic care also played a role.

"Only 15 percent of the participants selected a $0 premium plan. The rest were willing to pay more if the plan had other desirable features."

Understanding consumers’ beliefs about health and wellness can help health insurance companies guide consumers toward appropriate plans. It can also help hospitals and other healthcare providers design wellness programs for patients or population health initiatives that enjoy broader appeal and drive engagement. McKinsey put the myth to the test in a study and discovered that only 15 percent of the participants selected a $0 premium plan. The rest were willing to pay more if the plan had other desirable features. Each of the psychographic segments mentioned earlier prioritize different aspects of healthcare, and price sensitivity varies significantly.

Myth #3:

Consumers are loyal when it comes to healthcare providers.

Consumers can be fickle when it comes to brand loyalty in retail, hospitality, and other industries. Why would healthcare be any different? True, 82 percent of those surveyed by McKinsey reported they had a primary care physician (PCP), but age plays a role. According to the report, 96 percent of adults over age 65 have a PCP, but only 65 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 do.

Income levels, health status, and length of the doctor-patient relationship also play a role. Regarding the psychographic segments, c2b solutions’ market research has shown that certain segments are less likely to pay their doctor bills and more likely to file a lawsuit against physicians, hospitals or health insurance companies.

For hospitals and healthcare providers competing for patients in the age of healthcare consumerism, the ability to connect with individuals in ways that are relevant are critical to success—and psychographic segmentation can provide the insights needed to create impactful marketing campaigns, wellness outreach strategies, discharge plans or chronic disease management programs.  

The transformation of healthcare in America is well underway, and not just within the industry. By tapping into the expectations of today’s healthcare consumers with psychographic segmentation, hospitals and other healthcare organizations can avoid falling prey to myths and deliver experiences that drive engagement and build loyalty with patients.

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


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