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Consumer-Driven Healthcare: The Importance of Consumer Segmentation

Consumer segmentation is a standard practice for marketers in most industries – but healthcare has been slow to embrace this exercise. However, with the healthcare industry becomes more focused on Consumer Healthcare, hospitals are beginning to realize that they need to have an understand of their different consumer segments. The practice of consumer segmentation isn’t only crucial for marketing – it is also imperative in understanding what your patients are looking for when it comes to developing, shutting down, or investing more into different service lines.

There are many ways to approach segmentation. The most obvious is by looking at demographic factors like age, gender, age, race, and so forth, and while this would be a relatively easy task to undertake, it will not provide the necessary level of understanding about how and why consumers select, use, and evaluate health care services.

Different organizations have provided different segmentation groups.

One example that we have seen, The U.S. Health Care Market: A Strategic View of Consumer Segmentation, outlined six segments, which is summarized below:

1. Casual & Cautious:

“My health does not worry me, so I am not as engaged with the system, focused on prevention, or interested in online resources as I am cost-conscious, think that the health care system could improve, and am just not interested right now.”

2. Content and Compliant:

“I am happy with my health plan, hospitals, and doctors and see no reason to compare or switch. I trust my doctors to tell me what I need to know and make good treatment decisions for me. I follow-through with what my doctors recommend and I try to take good care of myself.

3. Online & On-board:

“I like to learn as much as I can online and am very interested in innovative health technologies. I am happy with the care I get from my doctor, but am also open to alternative providers and different care settings. Making informed health decisions is important to ”

4. Sick & Savvy:

“Taking care of my health is a priority for me – I use a lot of healthcare services and products, try to make informed decisions in partnership with my doctor, and do my best to adhere to treatment plans. Online information and tools keep me highly informed.”

5. Out & About:

“I am independent – I like to make decisions on my own, prefer doctors who use alternative approaches/natural therapies, and switch medicines more often than most. I am not very satisfied with the doctors, hospitals, and health plan I have I would like to customize my plan.”

6. Shop & Save:

“In pursuit of good value – I switch health plans and doctors, use retail clinics, order medications online, and travel for care more often than most. I am cost-conscious and improving or maintaining my health is a priority. I am open to alternatives.”

Another is by c2b Solutions, who classify their segments into five categories:

Balance Seekers are proactive in their health and wellness-oriented

Willful Endures live in the “here and now” and believe there are more important things to focus on than improving their health for the future

Priority Jugglers are very busy with many responsibilities. Because of these responsibilities, Priority Jugglers may not take the time to invest in their well-being and are reactive when it comes to health issues.

Self-Achievers are the most proactive when it comes to their wellness, investing what is necessary for their health and appearance

Direction Takers believe their physician is the most credible resource for their healthcare needs

As you can see, each company have similar segment profiles, and there are hundreds of generic categories that your hospital could suitably replicate. However, regardless of the selection or the names that you give each segment, the underlying methodology should be to look at "psycho-graphic" dimensions of your patients – their priorities, attitudes, and values and not just segment based upon their demographics.

Once the segmentation is complete, you will have a better understanding of your patient’s different needs and what they might be looking for in a healthcare provider. You can then use this information to identify gaps within your existing service offerings and customize your service lines to better relate to each patient segment and will place you in a better position against both your traditional and emerging competitors.