As “consumerism” becomes an ever-greater focus of health system strategy, we’ve begun to field a number of questions from leaders looking to develop a better understanding of consumers in their market.
In particular, there’s a growing desire for more sophistication around consumer segmentation—understanding how preferences and behavior differ among various kinds of patients.
Traditional segmentation has largely been marketing-driven, helping to target advertising and patient recruitment messages to key groups. For that, the old-school marketing segments were good enough: busy professionals, the worried well, the growing family, and so forth.
But as systems begin to develop product offerings (telemedicine or home-based services, for example) for target populations, those advertising-based segments need to be supplemented with a more advanced understanding of care consumption patterns over time. Segmentation needs to be dynamic, not static—how does a person move through life stages, and across care events, over time?
A single consumer might be in different segments depending on the type of care they need: if I have a new cancer diagnosis, that matters more than whether I’m a “busy professional”, and my relevant segment might be different still if I’m just looking for a quick virtual visit.
Layered on top of demographic and clinical segments is the additional complexity of payer category—am I a Medicare Advantage enrollee or do I have a high-deductible exchange plan?
With consumers exercising ever greater choice over where, when, and how much care to receive, understanding the interplay of these different kinds of segments is fast becoming a key skill for health systems—one that many don’t currently have.