Marking the Incision

When it comes to patient engagement, one size doesn't fit all. To be successful, entrepreneurs and physicians need to know the different segments of the health care market.

Surgeons cut patients. Surgeon entrepreneurs, and others like them, slice markets and define patient segments.

There are many ways to segment a market, but the techniques typically involve demographics, psychographics, or ethnological observation (the infamous IDEO shopping cart exercise). More recently, big data and predictive analyzers are giving us tools to identify medical terrorists.

Deloitte has identified 6 unique segments that comprise the health care consumer market — each segment approaches decisions about health, health care, and health insurance in a distinctive way:

As noted in their research reports, in the US market, the 6 unique health care segments are: “content and compliant,” “sick and savvy,” “casual and cautious,” “online and onboard,” “shop and save,” and “out and about.”

The “content and compliant” and “sick and savvy” tend to behave like “patients,” not particularly inclined to challenge a professional’s recommendation and query clinicians. Older patients, veterans, and some ethnic groups fall into this category.

The “casual and cautious” are simply not engaged because they don’t see the need. Younger patients who underestimate their health risks are examples.

The other 3 segments show characteristics of activism, often disruptive to a system more comfortable with patients than consumers. “Out and about” patients actively seek and use alternative, non-Western medicine, often without the knowledge of their clinicians; “online and onboard” patients use online tools and mobile applications to assess providers and compare treatment options and provider competence; and “shop and save” patients are the value purchasers and are not content with paying more than necessary under any non-emergency scenario.

Lately, we have been seeing a lot of reports and commentary about patient eagerness to engage and use digital and online tools to participate in their care. However, one size does not fit all. The next time you read a report about all those patients who want to talk to their doctors by email, take a deeper dive. Our ability to sort out the segments will give us a much better understanding of patient consumer habits and our ability to help them reach their health goals.