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Psychographics in Effective COVID-19 Vaccination Messaging

Physician placing bandage on patient's arm

The November 10, 2021 issue of STAT published an article titled, "Understanding health care consumer preferences is key to effective Covid-19 vaccination messaging," written by Sanjula Jain, senior vice president for marketing strategy and chief research officer for Trilliant Health and Jarrett Lewis, partner with Public Opinion Strategies.

The article is about overcoming COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy with a focus on leveraging psychographic segmentation to appeal to health care consumers' motivations and values. While clinicians have the greatest impact on influencing adoption of COVID-19 vaccines, there are patients who have held out but are potentially "movable" with the right message. As the authors point out, the message is just as important as the messenger.

Psychographic Profiles

Psychographics pertain to people's attitudes, values, beliefs, lifestyles and personalities and are core to their motivations, priorities and communication preferences. People can be groups, or segmented, according to these shared characteristics for targeting and engagement. There are five distinct psychographic profiles in health care:

  • Self Achievers, the most proactive about their health, investing in regular medical checkups and screenings.
  • Balance Seekers, who define their health themselves and not by health care professional guidelines. They are open to diversity of ideas, sources of information, and treatment options.
  • Priority Jugglers, who are busy with responsibilities, so they are reactive when it comes to their own health but proactive when it comes to their family's health.
  • Direction Takers, who look for credible resources and take direction and guidance from health care professionals.
  • Willful Endurers, independent thinkers who deprioritize their health.

Each psychographic segment requires a unique engagement strategy to motivate and activate desired behaviors. As the authors put it, "That's why developing messages that account for the individual attitudes, values and personalities that motivate health care decisions is essential to effective communication, informing the tone, content, channel, and frequency of messaging."

Testing Messages

Using Trilliant Health's national all-payer claims and consumer database, the authors categorized people into the five psychographic profiles. To evaluate the effectiveness of specific messaging to motivate getting a vaccination, the authors tested 12 different video messages recorded by a group of clinicians on three online discussion boards among unvaccinated adults. Vaccine messaging was evaluated to identify which resonated most strongly with each psychographic segment.

Messages that were most influential by segment involve:

  • Familiar Clinicians: Self Achievers and Direction Takers respond well to clinicians they know and trust, as opposed to national personalities like Anthony Fauci and Sanjay Gupta. Even if they don't know the clinicians personally, these psychographic segments may still place higher levels of trust in clinicians who work for local organizations.
  • Share New Information: Balance Seekers, Priority Jugglers and Willful Endurers sought new information, and video messages that performed best among these psychographic segments offered perceived new information about COVID vaccinations.
  • Ask, Don't Tell: Balance Seekers and Priority Jugglers do not like directives. These psychographic segments respond more positively to clinicians asking them to talk with a health care provider about the vaccine than a statement like, "take the shot."
  • Exude Patience: Unvaccinated patients have their reasons (intellectual or emotional) for not having gotten the vaccination. Balance Seekers, Priority Jugglers and Willful Endurers will grant the clinician a level of expertise, but they seek more information and have little tolerance for patronizing behavior.
  • Acknowledge Risk: Self Achievers and Balance Seekers want honesty, authenticity and fair balance from their clinicians. These psychographic segments will have done much research into COVID and its vaccines and believe the risks are being downplayed. Not acknowledging risk, regardless of rarity, reinforces suspicion.

Based on PatientBond market research, the psychographic segments also respond to different channel mixes in addition to the message. For example, Priority Jugglers prefer text messages/SMS while Balance Seekers like email. Self Achievers and Willful Endurers are the most likely to use telehealth or make a virtual visit. A patient engagement platform that can adjust to psychographic preferences will maximize results.

As the authors summarize in their article, "To increase the vaccination rate in the U.S., providers and public health officials cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to persuade vaccine-hesitant individuals. Effectively communicating with those who have not yet been vaccinated requires messaging tailored to their health decision-making profiles.



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