What are your strategies to reach the “informed” healthcare consumer?

cartoon men shaking hands

There are opportunities to reach healthcare consumers in a more strategic and individualized fashion

We talk a lot about patients as being “informed consumers” these days, don’t we?

But what does that phrase actually mean to the modern day healthcare marketing executive?

In their report, “The U.S. Health Care Market: A Strategic View of Consumer Segmentation,” the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions suggests that there are a variety of healthcare consumers out there – not a single homogeneous group entitled “informed.”

After conducting an online survey with over 4,000 participants (reflecting a proportional representation of the nation’s adult population with respect to age, gender, ethnicity, income, geography, insurance status), Deloitte identified and labeled the following six distinct consumer segments:

  • Casual & Cautious
  • Content & Compliant
  • Online & Onboard
  • Sick & Savvy
  • Out & About
  • Shop & Save

After reading this report, I was struck by two thoughts:

  1. The healthcare organizations that I’ve encountered still focus moreso on what they want to promote (e.g. doctors, treatments, rankings or service lines) rather than on what type of consumer they want to reach (in other words, they put themselves first in their marketing, not their consumers).
  2. Many healthcare organizations could benefit from having different marketing strategies to reach these various consumer segments – rather than a one-size fits all approach.

Review the persona sentiments for each segment below (along with my mini analysis) – and you’ll quickly see your opportunities to reach consumers in a more strategic and individualized fashion.

Casual & Cautious “My health doesn’t worry me – I’m generally not interested right now in healthcare topics.”

Millennials are most likely to feel this way (they are the youngest and feel most invincible); however, they are also the most active online shoppers of the six segments. When they do end up caring more about healthcare, they will be active shoppers.

• Shouldn’t you at least be making them aware of your brand and its relevance now in fun, engaging, social ways?

Content & Compliant“I’m happy with my current solutions and follow my doctors’ orders.”

Not surprising, this statement reflects seniors far more than the others. These are your current fans and customers. Once you have them, they may need the least amount of marketing effort to keep them connected and loyal.

• How much of your budget is spent on “preaching to the choir”? Is that wise, or should you be developing other segments?

Online & Onboard“I’m interested in innovative health technologies and open to different providers and health care settings. I make informed health decisions.”

This segment represented fairly equally among all groups (Millennials, GenX, Boomers and Seniors). If you were ever tempted to take a shotgun approach to marketing, promoting all the “new” and “different” at your organization or company will appeal to the widest audience.

• How well do you promote your innovations (products, services, programs, access, etc.) in all forms of paid, earned and owned media?

• How long and frequently do you bang the drum here – in order to build the reputation of offering new or better choices?

Sick & Savvy –I use a lot of medical services and products. I try to make informed decisions alongside my doctor or by researching online.”

Boomers and Seniors make up this segment. As they deal with aging or get ill, this population is looking for solutions that bring relief. They are willing to collaborate with you. This is opportunity to market by disease or condition and to create support communities.

• Think life-changing stories and testimonials. Get them to share with their social networks.

Out & About –I’m independent, prefer alternative medicine/natural therapies, switch medicines frequently, and am not satisfied with the current system.”

This may be an easy group (made up largely of Boomer and Gen X consumers) to reach – and even to convert – as they “try” new solutions. The trick will be in maintaining loyalty.

• How much are they worth to retain? What will that require? Monitor and measure this segment carefully.

Shop & Save – “I am very health and cost conscious. I want good value. I will travel for care and switch doctors if necessary. I use retail clinics and order medications online.”

Shopping for healthcare barely registers among Seniors. However, all other groups are showing more and more interest in knowing costs and controlling expenses. If you’ve got a competitive story to tell here, or even news to share on how you are attempting to control costs for this group, your audience here is trending up.

• How can transparency become a winning strategy for your health system or company moving forward? Help consumers shop and compare when and where you can. You will be seen as both different and relevant.

An informed vs. general approach

While general branding and service line marketing is comfortable, today’s busy and choosy consumer wants helpful information pushed to them when and how they need it. The research verifies it. Our strategies must meet the individual needs of the different consumer groups out there.

We’d welcome your feedback. What was the most strategic campaign or messaging you’ve developed to reach one of these market segments? Please share what you learned or any successes. We’d love to highlight your story in a future article.


Ward Alles is the President and Brand Consultant at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.


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