Identifying Health Values to Engage Consumers across Generations

by Colleen Welsh-Allen | Apr 20, 2017

The patient experience, or patient journey, has many unexpected influencers. As patients gain new experiences we, as market researchers, are tasked to think differently about patient research as well as how to engage patients across a changing healthcare landscape.

The number of health stakeholders is increasing and each has their own influence that must be considered in the patient experience. Patients today are more empowered and more focused on their own wellness than ever before, which makes their experience the one that matters most. Custom qualitative research has found that an aging population wants more from healthcare companies and their doctors. In turn, the healthcare industry is rapidly shifting toward partnering and engaging with consumers to help them make the best health and wellness decisions for themselves and their families. Millennials have been quick to embrace this new consumer model, but Baby Boomers are being forced to become consumers by the changing market access landscape. In order to best meet the needs of all consumers, we need to listen to what these patients, and their caregivers, need from us.

Perhaps the most important decision maker that healthcare market research has uncovered is the Health Activator, those who make healthcare decisions for themselves and at least one other family member. The healthcare industry needs to recognize that Health Activators don’t differentiate between "Health" and "Wellness", as they view health as more than just being free of illness. Despite making many decisions, Health Activators are often not fully knowledgeable about how to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy. Patient research has found that only 42 percent of Health Activators say they are knowledgeable about how to keep healthy. As an industry, we have an opportunity to educate Heath Activators, as each younger generation is moving away a little more from the trusted healthcare provider (HCP) and pharmacist model.

Traditionally, we think of making healthcare decisions for ourselves and possibly a significant other and children. However, healthcare market research has shown that Millennials are influencing more people outside of their immediate families. That's because Millennials are typically less private, and share with, and garner thoughts from, their friends about their health issues. For the healthcare industry, that makes optimizing communication with this key group all the more important. Communication needs to be crafted with the unique needs of Millennials in mind. Millennials are independent and skeptical, worry about money, lack knowledge about the healthcare system or believe it to be flawed, and are highly dependent on technology and social media. They see healthcare as a system that's designed for sickcare, and prefer a system that’s holistic, sensible and accessible. They trust and use non-traditional resources, and need more credible, self-directed information.

In order to best communicate with today’s complex aging population we need to:

  1. Reach beyond the patient to the Health Activators who are influencing decisions that span genders and generations.
  2. Address both health and wellness in the many decisions that are made for themselves and others.
  3. Provide more knowledge via non-traditional channels to help Health Activators make confident and well informed decisions.
  4. Ensure that any Patient Experience mapping takes a 360° degree look to make sure we are not missing the influence of Health Activators on the Journey.

Health Activators are a core consumer segment for the healthcare industry today. They set the health and wellness agenda for themselves and others, choose treatments, and hire and fire physicians, pharmacists and insurance providers. By optimally communicating health and wellness information to all generations, especially Millennials, our industry can deliver trusted information and confidence to the complex and aging patient population.

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