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Psychographics Help Bring the Human Element Back to Geriatric Medicine

Geriatric Medicine

In the fourth year of the federal readmission reduction program, half of U.S. hospitals will take a hit, losing a combined $420 million to Medicare penalties for excessive readmissions says Kaiser Health News. Why are hospitals struggling so much to address preventable readmissions following hospitalizations for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, chronic lung disease or elective hip or knee replacements? One reason may be that the healthcare industry, as a whole, sees older adults as a single group. It’s a mistake that healthcare providers will be rushing to address as the realities of the penalties hit home. Healthcare providers must ensure the continuing good health of elderly patients who are the largest consumers of their services – and that means seeing them as individual healthcare consumers with unique attitudes towards health and wellness. Psychographic segmentation can help.

Redefining Geriatrics

If you consider much of the health media coverage about older patients, it is clear that many look at geriatric medicine as a problem to be solved, rather than seeing the unique needs of aging healthcare consumers. And the number of hospitals now facing penalties—nearly 2,600—only emphasizes the problems with this approach. KHN’s analysis found that:

  • The average Medicare payment reduction is 0.61 percent per patient stay
  • 38 hospitals are being hit with the maximum reduction of 3 percent per patient stay
  • 506 hospitals will lose 1 percent or more of Medicare payments
  • 209 of the hospitals are facing penalties for the second consecutive year
  • 75 percent of hospitals in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island will feel the impact of Medicare penalties

It’s time to see older consumers in a new light.

Just take a look at some of the latest AARP commercials that all feature the tagline, “If you don’t think ‘real possibilities’ when you think AARP, then you don’t know ‘AARP.’” The powerful non-profit organization and interest group has recognized that aging Baby Boomers don’t fit a single mold—and they have changed their brand and their marketing to reflect a much more varied consumer group. Geriatric medicine needs to adopt a similar mind-set.

Instead of defining patients by age or a shared diagnosis—or addressing health issues as the inevitable process of aging—hospitals and other healthcare providers clearly need to take a more deliberate approach that focuses more on healthy aging rather than prevention and treatment of specific conditions. Population health mandates only reinforce the need; hospitals must create a culture of health for older adults.

Using Psychographic Segmentation to Improve Engagement

If hospitals are to find success in reducing readmissions, they need to quickly abandon the one-size-fits-all approach that has been in practice. Psychographic segmentation looks deeper than traditional segmentation to define consumers by their motivations and preferences. This allows healthcare providers to create more meaningful messaging and identify the right channels for sharing those messages to maximize the effect. It also allows them to better understand patient goals and develop care plans that meet their needs and expectations.

The proprietary psychographic segmentation model developed by c2b solutions classifies healthcare consumers into five distinct types with 91.1 percent predictability. Those types include proactive individuals like Self-Achievers, self-reliant Balance Seekers, over-extended Priority Jugglers and dutiful Direction Takers and disengaged Willful Endurers. The following chart illustrates the psychographic segment distribution among the three oldest cohorts measured in the 2015 c2b Consumer Diagnostic

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Within these types, healthcare consumers tend to rely on certain channels for healthcare information. By understanding how older healthcare consumers’ attitudes vary based on these more detailed segments and where they look for advice on issues of health and wellness, hospitals can develop healthy aging programs that put the right messages in front of the right people. With a more precise approach to engaging older patients, hospitals can not only address the readmission issues, but also position themselves for future success as the 3 million Baby Boomers reach Medicare eligibility every year through 2035.

PatientBond, a highly configurable software platform for outbound patient communications, uses the c2b psychographic segmentation model to customize messaging according to segment-specific preferences.  Using text/SMS, email, voicemail and other vehicles, PatientBond appeals to patient motivations to address issues like hospital readmissions, as well as medication adherence, appointment reminders, wellness programs and many other use cases.

Solutions like PatientBond will help hospitals, health systems and Accountable Care Organizations achieve their goals by treating patients as individuals.

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

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