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Psychographics Versus Demographics in Healthcare

PatientBond Psychographic Segments

The healthcare system uses demographics and behavioral data (e.g., hospital utilization, claims data) to define and identify patients and populations. Hospitals, health insurance companies, urgent care centers and provider of all types group patients and other health consumers into subpopulations through a process of consumer segmentation for purposes of marketing, risk stratification and patient engagement.

Consumer segmentation is a useful tool for driving specificity and efficiencies in targeting, but demographics do not go far enough to influence health consumer behavior. Before an explanation is offered for this statement, first let's define the terms used in this article.

According to Merriam-Webster, demographics are the statistical characteristics of human populations, used especially to identify markets. These include age, gender, race/ethnicity and many other physical variables.

Socioeconomics are social and economic factors, such as income, education and employment and affect one's ability to make healthy choices, afford medical care and housing, manage stress and more. These are a primary driver of Social Determinants of Health. For the purposes of this article, socioeconomics are included in references to demographics for simplicity.

The main issue with targeting and engaging health consumers is that members of a group with shared physical or situational characteristics do not all think and act alike. While generations like Millennials tend to get painted as a homogenous mass marching in lockstep, there is strong diversity of thought among this cohort. The same is true with gender, ethnicity and even people sharing the same health conditions. Why are some patients motivated to tackle a disease while others are more casual in their approach? Why do some patients listen to their physicians and follow their advice while other patients are more challenging? Why are some health consumers dedicated to a healthy lifestyle while others... not so much?

For these answers one needs to look beyond demographics.


Psychographics pertain to people's attitudes, values, beliefs, lifestyles and personalities. They are core to consumers' motivations, priorities and communication preferences. Psychographics help answer WHY patients and other health consumers make decisions and behave in certain ways.

Psychographic segmentation allows a marketer or clinician to identify health consumer types who are most likely to respond to a given subject and to craft messaging that activates desired behaviors. Psychographic segmentation has been used extensively in the consumer products, retail, automotive and financial industries since the 1970's, but it is relatively new to healthcare. It provides a lens to consumers' ways of thinking and how they make decisions.

My team led the psychographic segmentation work for Procter & Gamble Healthcare for the better part of 20 years, developing three generations of models before I joined PatientBond. PatientBond's model is an evolution of that work and has identified five distinct psychographic segments among health consumers (numbers in parentheses are the percentages of the U.S. population age 18+ represented by that segment:

  • Self Achievers (19%) - Goal oriented and motivated by measurable progress, Self Achievers are the most proactive and invested in their health.
  • Balance Seekers (17%) - Seeking options and choices and driven by knowledge and new information, Balance Seekers are also wellness-focused and explore different avenues to healthy living.
  • Priority Jugglers (18%) - Focused on responsibilities and managing a busy schedule, Priority Jugglers may not invest in their own health but make sure their loved ones get the care they need.
  • Direction Takers (15%) - Wanting directive guidance from an expert healthcare professional, Direction Takers are higher utilizers of the healthcare system but do not generally exhibit preventative behaviors.
  • Willful Endurers (31%) - Living in the "here and now" and wanting immediate gratification, Willful Endurers are reactive - and often disengaged - in their healthcare.
  • Each psychographic segment requires a different engagement strategy to maximize behavior activation. This includes segment-specific word choice and channel/media mix. What works for one psychographic segment does not necessarily work for another segment

For example, Priority Jugglers value commitment, dedication, responsibility and sacrifice, but you need to hook them immediately since they don't have much time to digest a lot of health information. SMS/text messaging works well with Priority Jugglers. Self Achievers respond well to goals, success, progress and achievement, and they are willing to put time toward

researching health information. Self Achievers prefer email and printed documents for the extra information they can provide.

The key takeaway is that a "one size fits all" approach will not be effective in activating desired behaviors across a population of health consumers.

Psychographics in Healthcare 

Healthcare organizations of all types are starting to see how psychographics can help them achieve their business and clinical goals. This has manifested as increased revenues, market share and patient loyalty, improved health outcomes and boosts in patient financial reposibility payments.

The following case studies illustrate the power of leveraging psychographics and patient-preferred communication channels to maximize results:

Accessing Psychographic Insights

It is a major investment in both dollars and hours to develop a reliable psychographic segmentation model. The model needs to be tested and validated in the field and proven stable and effective over time, especially for a risk-averse industry such as healthcare.

To make it easy for healthcare organizations to benefit from psychographics, PatientBond has developed an online, dashboard-driven Psychographics Marketing Package. This includes the market research data from PatientBond's July 2020 study on health consumer attitudes and behaviors in the era of COVID-19. The data can also be analyzed by demographics, socioeconomics and health condition, in addition or conjunction with the psychographic segments.

The package also includes psychographic segment heatmaps for any geography in the U.S. and the "codebook" to effective segment engagement. It's really the "easy button" to get the data and insights healthcare organizations need to turbocharge their marketing and provide the confidence they need for winning strategies.

Contact PatientBond today to discuss how psychographic segmentation can help your organization thrive.

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


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