While many feared that demand on health care providers would come on like a tsunami following the roll out of the health exchanges, in reality, the incoming tide of new patients has been more gradual. Still, demand promises to rise— particularly when providers consider the aging U.S. population in need of more specialized care.
According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Baby Boomers represent one-quarter of the 317 million people living in America, but one-quarter of newly insured patients are age 18 to 34.
Organizations– from care providers and insurers to pharmaceuticals and retailers—must find a way to craft strategic health care messaging that appeals to this extremely diverse audience.
Managing Demand Requires Trade-offs
In Washington State, primary care providers are managing well with a 10 percent increase in visits driven by new exchange enrollees.
According to an article in Kaiser Health News, most patients are getting in to see physicians in under a week. Providers have also seen a 20 percent increase in visits from new Medicaid recipients, however, who are experiencing longer wait times– up to 23 days on average. In rural areas already struggling with low physician-to-patient ratios, wait times could be even longer.
Handling more patients comes at a price as physicians must squeeze in more patients each day.
As a result, the article contends, “Patients might spend more time with nurses or other providers who have less training than physicians.” To ensure that this redistribution of time still meets patient needs, one Washington clinic is using a more collaborative approach.
The care team— which includes medical assistants, LPNs, RNs, a physician assistant, an advanced nurse practitioner and physicians— allocates diagnosis and complex patient care to more highly trained staff, while nurses handle follow-up on routine complaints and provide education for patients with chronic conditions.
The use of email or telemedicine to manage patients more effectively is also growing.
While these tools may not be practical under a fee-for-service model, the drive towards accountable care– and payments based on outcomes not volume– make these methods of communicating with patients more appealing.
At Group Health HMO, 60 percent of physician-patient interactions each day are handled by email or phone. Patients appear to like the approach since phone or email consultations come at little or no cost, and for patients in rural areas, telemedicine could improve accessibility, especially to specialists.
Becoming More Strategic about Patients
Informed by the psychographic segmentation of health care consumers, organizations can develop strategic health care initiatives designed to cultivate the right mix of patients to manage demand and to employ the right mix of messaging and communication vehicles preferred by specific consumer types.
With the prospect of an on-going physician shortage and an aging Boomer market, insurers need to attract new patients from the 18 to 34-year-old market– a prime target of the insurance exchanges– who consume less health care. The catch is that not all 18 to 34-year-olds think and act alike (though to us “more seasoned” observers, it may seem the case). Within this age group are various psychographic segments with differing motivations and approaches to health care.
In addition, the deep insights into consumer motivations that psychographic segmentation provides can help organizations thrive in other ways. How? By drilling deeper into the values, goals, emotions and personality traits that influence consumer behaviors, organizations can craft more effective, segment-specific messaging.
- Insurers can influence their priority members to renew coverage by developing strategic communications about features in plans that appeal to their health-conscious lifestyles.
- Hospitals can identify the best messaging and communication channels for reaching out to prospective patients for key programs, such as cardiovascular care or joint replacement.
- Care providers can cultivate a better mix of low-demand versus high-demand patients by customizing services to attract the 18 to 34-year-olds.
Demand is certain to rise in the coming years. With a health care system that is in transition, it will be more important than ever to manage patients more effectively – whether that means developing unique ways to serve more people each day or unique messages to motivate patients to make healthier decisions that keep them out of the doctor’s office altogether.
To learn how to adapt your current approach to more strategic health care initiatives, contact c2b solutions.