What today’s healthcare consumer really wants (hint: it’s not all about convenience)

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Results from Core Creative’s consumer market research study

Every bit of research begins with a simple hypothesis. As Core Health launched its inaugural consumer market research study, our hypothesis was simple: Healthcare consumers prioritize convenience over all else. Right? Surprise: We were wrong.

The hypothesis was driven by conversations we have in the field with VPs and directors of marketing at health systems and by The Advisory Board’s 2015 study, “What Do Consumers Want From Health Care?”. In addition to testing our hypothesis, the purpose of the research was to identify key drivers of healthcare choice so our clients – healthcare marketers – could leverage this information when branding and positioning their health systems.

The study was conducted in partnership with Cheryl Stone & Associates as a nationwide, online panel survey from Oct. 25, to Nov. 5, 2018. A total of 1,501 interviews were completed with a confidence level of 95%. Quotas were used to ensure replication of the U.S. population.

So, if consumers don’t prioritize convenience, what is most important to them?

Performance and results

When asked the question, “How important is each of these items in choosing where you actually go for healthcare services,” 67% of our sample selected performance and results as “very important.”

Importance of Driver Categories

Very Important Somewhat Important
Performance and results
Caring and compassion
A care experience that is personalized to meet your needs and preferences

While there were few significant differences in the importance of the six drivers of healthcare choice by region, age, type of health plan used and various health plan options, the data revealed some interesting findings about key demographics.

Those with higher incomes are less likely to respond to “high-touch” positioning

People with incomes of $100,000 or higher and with a college degree are less likely than average to rate “caring and compassion” and “personalized care experience” as “very important.”

Lower-earning Americans are more likely to prioritize “high-touch” experiences

Respondents with incomes lower than $25,000 are significantly more likely than average to give “very important” ratings to all categories except “performance and results” and “innovation”. Respondents on Medicaid were more likely to rate “caring and compassion” and “personalized care experience” as very important.

Women aren’t as wowed by convenience or innovation

A higher percentage of women, who comprised 70% of our sample, rated all but “convenience” and “innovation” as very important. For all six categories, women were significantly more likely than men to give a rating of very important.

Performance and results matter even more to Southerners, and to those over 65

Performance and results emerged as the top driver for consumer choice across the board, but those in the South and Americans older than 65 are even more likely to choose a healthcare provider based on this criteria.

Innovation rules for those in HRA or ACA plans

Innovation Indicators

Very Important Somewhat Important
The health system has the latest technology and advanced procedures
They offer unique services that other health systems do not offer
The health system includes teaching hospital(s), training residents and interns, nursing students, and students in other healthcare professions
The health system conducts medical research

Respondents who self identified as having a health reimbursement account, or an insurance plan purchased on the healthcare exchange are most likely to choose healthcare providers with strong “innovation” positioning.

When asked, “Is there any other item that is very important to you when you choose a provider or facility for your own healthcare services?” nearly 600 respondents provided feedback.

  • The care experience. Respondents referenced “a friendly doctor that will listen to me,” “the office atmosphere,” “staff that know what they’re doing," or “cleanliness” as key influencers of choice.
  • Information available online. When looking online, respondents said information about insurance acceptance, cost or pricing and the quality of experience of doctors is most likely to influence their healthcare decisions.

Using this data to inform your health system’s positioning

This research study was conducted, in part, to help provide timely and statistically significant information to healthcare marketers. When using this information to help identify your health system’s position in the market, consider:

  • Conducting further market research. Different indicators of healthcare choice may emerge when research is conducted in your market.
  • Believability, relevance and truth. If you’re claiming to be the “caring and compassionate” health system, you should be able to defend your position if questioned about it. Similarly, “caring and compassion” should be identified as an important driver for the audience you serve.
  • Differentiation. Your position should not be the same as a competitor’s. In the world of positioning, differentiation will always win.

You can download complete research study here.

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How can we more powerfully engage healthcare consumers?

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Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Health.

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