Overcoming persistent myths about medically underserved populations is a challenge that every hospital or healthcare provider faces. To borrow from a well-known myth, it can feel like you’re rolling a boulder to the top of mountain, only to have it slip back down.
How do you see past commonly-held, but erroneous, myths—such as that Hispanic healthcare consumers are not engaged in wellness and health improvement? First, take a closer look at some of the myths; then discover the truth through demographic and psychographic variances.
Why Are Hispanic Patients So Often Medically Underserved?
Two years ago, the Hispanic population in the U.S. reached 57 million, approximately 17 percent of the total population. When you look at a state-by-state breakdown, the numbers vary widely—from 35 percent or more in border states Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California to 5 percent or less in sixteen other states across the country. Pew Research also notes two trends in Hispanic population numbers:
- Many regions that have seen the fastest Hispanic population growth in recent years are rural, owing to the types of job opportunities available. For example, an increase in shale oil production led to 367 percent growth in one North Dakota county. In addition, 43 percent of Hispanic population growth in the last decade took place in the South, spurred on, in part, by agricultural jobs.
- Fifty-three percent of Hispanics in the U.S. reside in 15 metropolitan areas, with immigrants representing the majority in two areas: Miami-Fort Lauderdale—West Palm Beach and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, which includes our nation’s capital as well as parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. With nearly 6 million Hispanics, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro area tops the list. Other metropolitan areas with large Hispanic populations include New York-Newark-Jersey City with more than 4.7 million and Chicago with more than 2 million.
On top of language and cultural barriers, these trends indicate an increased likelihood for Hispanic patients to fall into medically underserved populations. Likewise, a 21 percent poverty rate—which is more than double the rate of poverty among non-Hispanic whites—raises the odds of being a medically underserved population.
Understanding Hispanic Healthcare Consumers—Wherever They Live
Hispanic healthcare consumers are underserved in numerous ways—not just related to healthcare access. The Curve Report by NBCUniversal finds that 77 percent of Hispanics want brands to make more of an effort—and myths play a role in the lack of targeted outreach to Hispanics. Here are several common myths:
- Cost considerations drive preferences for medications.
While cost is important, particularly for lower-income Hispanics, 35 percent of Hispanics report that they are more loyal to brands that “show appreciation for their culture by advertising in Spanish.” While the survey question was specifically related to generic versus brand-name drugs, hospitals and other healthcare-related organizations could do better at connecting with Hispanic patients using culturally-appropriate health education and marketing.
- Healthcare products are a “luxury” purchase.
Another study has shown that Hispanics are 8 percent more likely than non-Hispanics to willingly pay whatever it takes when it comes to health, and 48 percent report that they will seek out a physician-recommended brand at the pharmacy immediately after a doctor’s appointment.
- Hispanics lack self-motivation to manage their health and wellness.
Many believe that Hispanics are not engaged patients—especially those that are medically underserved—but barriers to access do not mean patients aren’t willing to take the initiative. Healthcare consumer market research data from the c2b Consumer Diagnostic studies reveals that nearly 80 percent of Hispanic respondents ‘Strongly Agreed’ or ‘Agreed’ with the statement, “I Believe that I Can Directly Influence How Long I Will Live, Regardless of My Family History.” The positive attitude suggests that medically underserved Hispanic patients can be engaged—with the right approach.
Of course, health disparities that affect Hispanics are no myth. A Families USA infographic highlights some of the disparities compared to non-Hispanic whites.
- 35 percent more likely to be obese as children and 15 percent more likely to be obese as adults
- 65 percent more likely to be diabetic and 45 percent more likely to die from diabetes and its complications
Why do hospitals and other healthcare providers find it so difficult to drive engagement? Even when you get past the myths, patient engagement can be a challenge if you approach people as a homogenous group just because they share cultural similarities.
With the help of psychographic segmentation, you can see variances within a group, based on individuals’ attitudes, beliefs and preferences. Each psychographic segment has its own unique approach to health & wellness, motivations, priorities and communication practices. The following chart shows the difference in segment distribution between Hispanics/Latinos and the general population:
Willful Endurers, the most reactive and disengaged in healthcare among the psychographic segments, are over-represented among the Hispanic population, which may help reinforce the myth that Hispanics are not focused on improving their health. For example, among the five c2b psychographic segments, only 67 percent Hispanic Willful Endurers ‘Strongly Agreed’ or ‘Agreed’ with “I Believe that I Can Directly Influence How Long I Will Live, Regardless of My Family History.”
However, Willful Endurers are only 39 percent of the Hispanic population. Moreover, the two most proactive and wellness-oriented segments — the Self Achievers and Balance Seekers — represent 40 percent of the Hispanic population.
Other insights from the c2b Consumer Diagnostic:
- When responding to the statement, “My Doctor Is the Most Credible Authority for My Health & Wellness Needs,” 33 percent of Balance Seekers ‘Disagree’ or ‘Strongly Disagree’—a statistically significant variation from Willful Endurers, Priority Jugglers, Self Achievers and Direction Takers.
- For the statement, “I will go to the doctor at the first sign of health concerns,” Balance Seekers and Priority Jugglers are much less likely to engage the health system early in an issue: ”
Clearly, Hispanic patients do not think and act alike when it comes to health and wellness, so a “one size fits all” approach to patient engagement will not suffice. A cultural lens is critical for successful engagement, but healthcare providers must consider deeper insights to motivate and activate desired behaviors.
Understanding individual medically underserved Hispanic patients’ needs and expectations—beyond language—can help hospitals fine-tune messaging and communication channels to connect with patients more effectively and truly drive engagement that breaks down barriers to better health.