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Psychographics: Addressing Health Literacy and Patient Engagement Strategies

Plain-Talk-logoHealth literacy — the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines it as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” According to the HHS, with only 12 percent of adults demonstrating proficiency in health literacy, nearly 9 out of 10 adults lack the skills needed for disease prevention and management. As healthcare organizations develop patient engagement strategies, deficiencies in health literacy could be a significant barrier.

Breaking Down Walls to Patient Activation

This week, in Arlington, Virginia, public health professionals, educators, medical practitioners, community advocates and others, including PatientBond, are coming together for a 2-day Plain Talk conference to explore best practices for communicating complex healthcare information to consumers. Some insights that we will be sharing include how psychographics can be used to more effectively reach the uninsured to motivate them toward pursuing coverage, and to create a framework for patient engagement strategies that can bridge the communication challenges between healthcare organizations and patient populations.

Health literacy is a significant part of the equation.

According to a study commissioned by iTriage, reports the Denver Business Journal, poor health literacy results in nearly $395 billion in annual waste due to failures to employ preventive health measures and use of unnecessary medical procedures.  The company believes that the better educated consumers are about their own health, the better their level of patient engagement.

There are, however, a number of barriers to health literacy:

  • Poor communication between consumers and healthcare professionals results in confusion and low levels of patient satisfaction.
  • Poor numeracy skills that make it difficult for consumers to understand mathematical concepts like probability and risk, as well as calculating everything from insulin dosages based on blood sugar levels to insurance deductibles and co-pays.
  • Insufficient knowledge or misinformation about health topics that prevent consumers from seeking suitable care or identifying lifestyle factors that may impact health.
  • Difficulty in retaining information during times of emotional stress, a common state when receiving an unfavorable health diagnosis.
  • Cultural variations in languages, beliefs, values, traditions and health practices that are increasingly important as hospitals manage more diverse populations.

Plain talk and some basic consumer market research, segmenting patients by demographics, socioeconomics and even culturally, within a targeted population can help organizations begin to break down the barriers to health literacy. However, patient engagement strategies need to go a step further. After all, as the HHS health literacy guide points out, “Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others.” Moreover, certain words or messages will resonate positively with some consumers but negatively with others.

Not only must you know your audience in terms of these potential health literacy barriers, but you must also have actionable insights into how to best communicate with them to ensure they understand the information and are motivated to act on it.

This is where psychographics come in. Psychographics focus on a person’s values, beliefs, personality and lifestyle, and are the key to unlocking motivations. PatientBond has identified five distinct healthcare psychographic segments — Balance Seekers, Willful Endurers, Priority Jugglers, Self Achievers, Direction Takers — each with their own unique motivations and communication/education preferences. PatientBond is sharing these insights today at the Plain Talk conference to help healthcare educators and policymakers strengthen their efforts with patients for whom health literacy is an issue.

Determining the Effectiveness of Patient Engagement Strategies

Once organizations overcome health literacy issues, they still need to find ways to motivate individual consumers to be more proactive — whether to drive preventive measures for wellness or to drive adherence to treatment plans for chronic diseases ranging from cardiovascular conditions and diabetes to cancer. For patient engagement strategies to achieve the desired outcomes, hospitals, health insurance companies and other healthcare organizations must adjust strategies to appeal to disparate psychographic segments within the target audience. Otherwise, efforts to connect consumers to the information they need to improve health literacy and to activate patients to take control of their health and wellness will fail to generate meaningful changes.

To better understand how to fine-tune your patient engagement strategies for greater impact, read the PatienBond white paper on psychographics and patient activation or contact us for more information.  

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

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