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PatientBond Blog:

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The Household’s Chief Medical Officer: The Female Healthcare Consumer


Brent Walker | Posted on July 8, 2015

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A recent health consumer survey by the Center for Talent Innovation — funded by several of the biggest stakeholders in the American healthcare provider market — has indicated that a majority of women could be characterized as the "Chief Medical Officers" of their households.  

59 percent of women reported to researchers that they make medical decisions for others. Unsurprisingly, but nonetheless significantly, a whopping 94 percent of working mothers with children under 18 living at home report making medical decisions for others.  When I was at P&G, my team did extensive research on healthcare consumers, finding similar results… our studies indicated the female head of household makes 75 percent of all healthcare decisions for the family, including product and service choices, in addition to health insurance choices.

What implications do those findings hold for patient engagement — and for Return on Engagement? Naturally, even though a great number of women find themselves serving in a "home CMO" role, not every woman is motivated by the same factors. And many of them face barriers to accessing healthcare. Can psychographic segmentation help your organization to more effectively reach a broad cross-section of this population and better serve individuals' needs?

Time Is A Key Limiting Factor

According to the Center for Talent Innovation, 62 percent of women who reported making medical decisions for themselves simultaneously reported that they lack the ability to execute their medical decisions. The chief reason? Lack of time.

Most of these women stated that they simply don't have enough time to figure out what is best for their own health — or for the health of those loved ones in their charge. That's not entirely surprising, considering a large percentage of these women are working mothers.

Putting in a full 40-hour week is hard enough. Between getting one's self ready for work, kids ready for school, commuting, running errands, preparing meals and driving children to evening and weekend activities, when is the average working mother supposed to sit down and do careful, in-depth research on health conditions?

And that's to say nothing of a key problem: limited office hours and appointment times often mean that a working mother must take time off to take kids to the doctor.

The Family Medical Leave Act only affords only so much protection. If a mother with several young children at home has to burn all her sick and family emergency time on her children's medical needs, she will often feel forced to neglect her own health needs. And that may lead to preventable, higher acuity illnesses down the road.

Uncertainty Is Another

Even those women who are somehow able to make that time may be plagued by indecision. More than half of the women surveyed who serve in a home CMO role said that they do not have confidence in their own decisions.

35 percent of them stated that they do not trust their doctors. Moreover, a large percentage of women don't trust their insurance providers or pharmaceutical companies. The takeaway? Providers probably aren't doing enough to provide women with the decision-making support that they feel they need. And they're probably also doing a poor job of communicating key messaging to female consumers in a manner that those consumers are comfortable receiving it.

Why? One reason may be that women are still woefully underrepresented in clinical health trials, translating into a lack of understanding regarding women’s experience managing a health condition.

The Ongoing Gender Gap

According to a 2014 report released by Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, clinical researchers "frequently do not enroll adequate numbers of women" in medical trials. Even when they do, they often fail to analyze or report results by sex.

This, the study's authors asserted, means that, "the science that informs medicine — including the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease — routinely fails to consider the crucial impact of sex and gender."

Given that there is a wealth of evidence that disease courses such as cardiovascular dysfunction, dementia, depression and even some cancers present differently and progress differently according to a patient's gender, it's not hard to understand how poor gender-accounting methodology in medical science might lead to a lack of clinical expertise and, thus, to a lack of confidence by female patients in their providers.  The average female patient may not be aware of gender gaps in clinical trials, but she is acutely aware of a clinician’s ability to engage her effectively.

Psychographic Segmentation May Help Your Organization To Overcome The Gender Gap

If you're looking for a better return on the engagement efforts that you are making with female healthcare consumers, consider the role that women often find themselves forced to play — that of the family's medical decision-maker.

Finding creative ways to deliver care that would help working women avoid having to take time off could help. Staffing on-demand, after-hours primary and pediatric care is a potential solution. And an organization might meet women's decision-making support needs by increasing access to Internet chat-based Ask-a-Nurse services, online health resources and targeted mHealth solutions.

However, addressing women's often-reported barriers to healthcare is one thing — addressing those barriers via the messaging and channels most likely to reach your audience is quite another. To state the obvious, all women do not think and act alike – just as there is a wide range of diversity among age groups, ethnicities and patients managing a specific health condition.

c2b solutions has identified five distinct psychographic segments among healthcare consumers, including females.  Psychographics pertain to people’s values, personalities and motivations; a key to patient activation is understanding the specific motivations of each segment and engaging patients based on these insights.

Your organization's patient engagement efforts can be made that much more effective simply by researching your consumer base and tailoring your messaging to meet your constituents' individual communication preferences.

If you would like to learn more about c2b solutions consumer insights and capabilities, download this whitepaper on psychographic segmentation or contact us for further discussion.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change

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Topics: Patient Engagement, C2B Archive

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