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Psychographics: A Road Map to Effecting Change in Health Care?

roadmap-to-destinationAs providers, payers and employers work to encourage healthier behaviors among today’s health care consumers, they often struggle to effect the necessary engagement. Often, the failure to connect lies in relying on one-size-fits-all solutions based on a diagnosis like diabetes. Certainly, such an approach seems obvious, but as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, once said, “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

When it comes to making meaningful connections with consumers to drive behaviors, organizations may want to use psychographic segmentation to gain greater insights into what motivates individuals.

Going Beyond Educational Materials

For years, doctors have made a wealth of educational materials available to patients — from equipping the waiting room with video monitors promoting healthy lifestyle programming to providing colorful brochures and fact sheets. In addition to physician provided materials, today’s digital-savvy consumers have a host of informative resources to access — both online and as smartphone apps.

Why, then, isn’t everyone getting healthier? Because simply providing information isn’t enough. Knowledge alone doesn’t drive necessary behavior changes. 

As glaring proof, research by Johns Hopkins’ schools of Public Health and Medicine, found that 53% of physicians are overweight or obese. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a quarter of Licensed Practical Nurses smoke. If the most informed and educated people regarding health struggle to maintain healthy habits, how is the average patient expected to do any better?

Consumer segmentation groups people according to shared characteristics, and begins to delve deeper, helping health care-related organizations break down a diagnosed group into smaller clusters based on demographic, socioeconomic or behavioral characteristics. Digging deeper still, PatientBond’s proprietary method for psychographic segmentation profiles consumers with 91.1 percent predictability, separating them into five distinct categories:

  • Self Achievers — The most proactive and wellness-oriented group, Self Achievers are ready to be in the driver’s seat, but appreciate directive guidance. They are the most willing to “spend whatever it takes to be healthy.”
  • Balance Seekers — Balance Seekers are also proactive and wellness-oriented, but they downplay the role of healthcare professionals. They prefer having options, rather than being given a route to wellness already mapped out. A directive healthcare professional can be a turnoff for Balance Seekers – they prefer more suggestive approaches.
  • Priority Jugglers — Priority Jugglers tend to be less proactive and less engaged because they put other concerns ahead of personal health (e.g., job, family). They may require a higher level of interaction to keep them focused on healthy behaviors.
  • Willful Endurers — Willful Endurers are very independent and the least proactive about health and wellness. The challenge is to find ways to motivate them toward healthy living.
  • Direction Takers — As the name suggests, Direction Takers do not actively seek to drive their wellbeing, reacting only when necessary and then following the route that is prescribed.

By better understanding consumers’ lifestyles, beliefs and attitudes towards health care, physicians and others can develop successful strategies for guiding consumers toward better health.

The Power of Psychographics

An example ACO uses psychographic segmentation to fine-tune its approach to managing patients with diabetes. The ACO — which includes eight acute care hospitals, three teaching hospitals, two children’s hospitals and more than 250 outpatient locations — serves nearly a million patients in the region. The ACO’s Diabetes Care Continuum Initiative exceeds expectations and surpassed national averages over three years. The initiative included a multi-touch approach to track and manage key health targets including:

  • Email and Patient Portal Messages
  • Mailed Letter
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone Calls
  • Direct Contact by a Nurse

In looking at the results, however, the ACO determined it could do better at addressing priority care gaps and improving target results even more. Despite using multiple channels to reach out to patients, the organization was sending the same message out to all, proving less effective.

By looking at PatientBond’s research related specifically to consumers with diabetes, the ACO began to identify areas where messaging could be adjusted to drive behavioral change. For example, two psychographic segments make up more than half the population of patients with diabetes — Self Achievers at 32 percent and Willful Endurers at 27 percent.

Research shows that these two segments have very different attitudes about health and wellness. Self Achievers are goal-oriented and competitive, suggesting that they will chart progress and take preventative action given the right tools. Willful Endurers, on the other hand, are less easily motivated, requiring a different approach.

Based on these insights, the ACO is adjusting its approach and will also append the EHR to include psychographic segment variables as they are isolated, to ensure that future strategies can be fine-tuned to meet the specific needs of each consumer. 

Psychographic segmentation has the potential to transform how hospitals, insurers, employers and others in the health care industry to motivate today’s health care consumers. From our 12-question Consumer Classifier to our in-depth studies of consumers with cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, obesity or anxiety/depression, PatientBond can help you identify the right message and right channel to reach the people you need.

Check out other PatientBond case studies or contact us for more information.

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


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