Not all patients are created equal. Different generations make health care decisions in different ways, and now evidence is showing that age isn’t the only factor in how patients approach their care. In a report on rising consumerism in health care, the Deloitte Review has identified six unique consumer health care segments that navigate the health care system in very different ways. Understanding these segments can help doctors better reach prospective patients and provide better care for their existing patients.
Before further separating the results into six types, Deloitte divided all health care consumers into two broader categories: passive and active. About half of consumers fall into the “passive” category, meaning they are not particularly engaged in their health care or inclined to question their doctors. The “active” category was more apt to seek out information, experts, and alternatives, both online and off.
A look at the six different segments
Within the passive category is the largest of the six segments of health care consumers: the “casual and cautious” (making up 34 percent of those Deloitte surveyed). These people are simply not engaged in their care because they don’t see the need, and also because they are cost-conscious.
The other segment within the passive category is “content and compliant” patients (22 percent). This group is happy with their doctor, hospital, and health plan, trusting of their doctors, and follows their doctors’ care recommendations.
The other four segments of health care consumers fall into the “active” category. The largest segment of active patients — “online and onboard” (17 percent of those surveyed) — are interested in technology and use online tools and mobile applications to assess providers and compare treatment options. The “sick and savvy” (14 percent) segment consumes a good deal of health care services and products, and seeks to form partnerships with their medical providers.
The last two segments of active health care consumers are also the smallest. “Out and about” patients (nine percent) are independent, actively seek out alternatives, and want customized services. This group searches online for health information and guidance from experts. The last group, the “shop and save” segment (four percent) is most interested in value. These patients comparison shop for health care products and services, switch providers frequently, and are open to alternatives such as retail clinics.
What doctors can learn
So what can you learn from this survey that can help you in your own practice? Well, if the largest group of health care consumers is not engaged in their care because they don’t see the need, consider how you might market your practice and services to a wider audience, including consumers who fall into the “active” category. Is your practice website attracting patients or turning them away? Are you using social media effectively to educate and reach out to prospective patients?
Furthermore, evidence is growing that patients who are more actively involved in their health care have better health outcomes and incur lower costs. And, they don’t waste their doctors’ time. “Patients who are proactive and organized can cover twice as much in an appointment compared with patients who are passive and unprepared,” writes Dr. Pamela Wible on KevinMD.com. Active, engaged patients are good for everybody.
But if you’re tempted to sit back and forget about your “content and compliant” patients in the passive category, don’t. Consumers are bearing more of the burden for paying for their care, so passive will no longer a viable option when it comes to the future of health care. According to Deloitte, health care expenses are second only to housing in an average household. Along with value, providers’ service and use of technology are increasingly important to patients. This group might be “content and compliant” but they still want quality service and care, and will be a group your practice ultimately will have to work to retain.
No matter what segment of health care consumers most of your patients fall into, your practice has to be concerned about all of them. For more information about improving patient experience and patient education in your medical practice, subscribe to our newsletter.