Insights on Today's Healthcare Consumer

3 Healthcare Consumerism Barriers & How to Overcome Them

Posted by Brent Walker on Tue, Aug 29, 2017

Are you getting frustrated with comparisons that pit healthcare organizations against companies like Amazon and Disney? After all, retail therapy or a vacation to the Magic Kingdom is a far cry from the stress of weighing options for a knee replacement surgery or an unexpected visit to an emergency room.

Yet increasingly, consumers want experiences that compare well to consumer-oriented businesses. And according to research by Oliver Wyman, “more personalized health and wellness can deliver up to 40 percent better value and a 100 times improvement in the consumer experience.”

Despite the barriers you face in delivering on the demands of healthcare consumerism, the potential benefits make overcoming these challenges an imperative. Here’s what you can do.

Meeting Patient Privacy Requirements

Consumers want to engage with healthcare providers in the same ways they connect with family, friends, colleagues, and brands—text, email, and social media. What’s holding healthcare organizations back? Fear of HIPAA violations is one barrier. Past headlines citing non-compliance with patient privacy regulations—and the associated financial costs of these failures—have made healthcare providers more cautious.

However, as Data Informed noted in a post earlier this year, “There are parallel data restrictions in financial services, particularly the restrictions on the use of credit information for marketing purposes.” Yet banks have managed to overcome the barriers and deliver value to consumers through careful strategies and the use of third-party consumer data. Healthcare organizations can too.

And it’s worth engaging with healthcare consumers via these newer channels for marketing and patient communications. For example, the traditional direct mail campaigns and billboards favored by hospitals aren’t nearly as effective as they once were. In fact, one study found that 57 percent of consumers say that a strong social media presence “strongly influences” their choice in a hospital, and another study found that 81 percent of consumers draw a parallel between a hospital with a strong social media presence and the likelihood it offers cutting-edge technologies.

Repairing Fragmented Experiences

Fragmented healthcare experiences aren’t new. In the Data Informed article, strategy and market development expert John Nash writes, “It is a bit ironic that healthcare has become so fragmented, given that the root word of ‘health’ (“hal” in Old English) also means ‘whole.’”

While the number of players involved—from health insurers and healthcare providers to pharmacists, medical device manufacturers and fitness companies—contributes to fragmentation, it’s not the only factor to consider. As interoperability improves, EHRs should help—at least in terms of capturing a more complete picture of consumers’ in-person interactions with healthcare providers along the care continuum.  

But what about other components of the healthcare experience—those that take place outside the four walls of a doctor’s office or hospital? Patients with chronic conditions have day-to-day health management concerns that are not always addressed in a scheduled wellness check. Other patients have an interest in wellness advice, but don’t know what resources to use.

As Nash notes, “We have an opportunity to use customer data to make healthcare whole as originally intended—to interact with consumers, patients and members in a way that is much more personalized and engaging.”

A digital patient engagement platform can help automate communications across a variety of channels—whether sharing health and wellness tips or delivering timely reminders about hospital post-discharge instructions—to help create a more unified experience.

Addressing a Lack of Consumer Understanding

When healthcare organizations are able to overcome the first two barriers, achieving the level of engagement and support healthcare consumers expect from brands can still be a challenge. Why?  Because hospitals, primary care physicians and others still rely on one-size-fits-all messaging that fails to strike a chord with their audiences.

Healthcare consumers expect a high degree of personalization in their experiences because that’s what they’ve become accustomed to in their relationships with other brands. Healthcare data only tells part of the story. Healthcare providers need to look beyond a diagnosis or demographics to develop relevant patient engagement materials. They need to understand what makes individual consumers tick.

That’s where psychographic segmentation can help. Psychographic segmentation offers insights into what beliefs individuals bring to their healthcare experience, how individuals can be motivated to adopt healthy behaviors, where they turn for healthcare advice and more. By understanding individuals at this deeper level, healthcare organizations can tailor outreach—whether it’s a wellness program through an insurance provider or chronic disease management coaching offered by a hospital—to improve the relevance and effectiveness of the messaging.

Healthcare consumerism’s barriers aren’t insurmountable. By following the lead set by other brands and leveraging healthcare data and analytics, along with relevant third-party data to provide additional insights, healthcare organizations can bridge gaps in the patient experience to deliver consistent, seamless care that wins over patients and results in better outcomes. What will it take for you to achieve those results?

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Brent Walker

Written by: Brent Walker

As Chief Marketing Officer, Brent's primary responsibilities include leading marketing strategy and execution for c2b solutions, development of c2b solutions' proprietary consumer segmentation model and insights products, research on healthcare consumers’ motivations and behaviors, and providing marketing guidance to c2b solutions clients.

Tags: Healthcare Consumerism, Psychographic Segmentation, Healthcare Data, healthcare analytics

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