Revealing Discoveries About How Consumers/Patients are Changing

In a groundbreaking 2009 research survey, consumers/patients across the United States and Canada reported how their health motivations, goals, attitudes, emotions, behaviour and reliance on a range of Influencers and Supporters are changing the way they manage their health conditions. This is a giant leap forward in defining that much sought after healthcare industry knowledge: factors driving consumers’ healthcare decisions and choices.

The Self Care BeePOLL 2009 surveyed 4,500 North Americans (3,000 US and 1,500 Canada), aged 30 to 70 years old, across 68 health conditions: a spread allows differing health care behaviour to be better understood.

This study reveals and quantifies that healthcare decision making is influenced by many factors beyond the rational; including consumer and patient awareness of their health condition, their risks and vulnerabilities, their emotions, attitudes , range of choices and Influencers (e.g. doctors, online) and Supporters (e.g. family and friends) that will ultimately shape their decision making.

The BeePOLL 2009 found various many differences in how consumers manage their health conditions across ages, gender and geographic location. Consequently, marketers need to understand that there is no standard, “one-size-fits-all” way to engage these consumers. Consumers are not simply choosing between products or brands – they are looking for a product or a combination of products that will provide long term health solutions, addressing a number of issues.

• On the average, consumers reported 4.5 health conditions. There was strong interaction found among pain, overweight, lack of energy, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. Key information that Marketers need when acquiring new consumer groups or even in communicating to them.

• In the United States, consumers reported to be more motivated by prevention and restoration while in Canada, they are more geared towards maintenance and enhancement; hence Americans are higher users of OTC and Vitamin/Mineral Supplements while Canadians have a higher prevalence of Prescription drug use, behaviour potentially driven by the differences in healthcare systems.

• Self efficacy or self confidence in managing their health condition is an indicator of consumer/patient health satisfaction. For instance, consumers are more likely to use OTCs if they are confident in their ability to manage their health condition.

• Consumers’ and patients’ level of happiness and health satisfaction are not always necessarily influenced by their condition’s severity but rather by how their day to day quality of life is affected and the degree of control they feel they have.
The Self Care BeePOLL 2009 presented revealing information on consumer segments, health attitudes and emotions, health interventions, Influencers and Supporters that could enable Marketers of health products and services better shape and influence consumer behaviour choices.

• The move of the traditional point of care between doctors and patients to a more empowered consumer/patient, an aging population demanding more healthcare services, the increasing expansion of consumer and patient health intervention, and new influencers and supporters are all impacting consumers’ healthcare decision making. But is the healthcare industry, traditionally geared around talking at narrowly-defined segments of consumers’ healthcare needs, ready for this shift?

• While the conditions they suffer from vary, men and women also experience differing emotions and attitudes regarding health, which has implications for marketers. Women are more geared towards self-education and are more receptive to health enhancement and prevention interventions than men – for example, they are more likely to be influenced by on-line information and/or conversations. Men, on the other hand, cite pharmacists, doctors and TV as being major influencers at a higher level than women. Marketers offering solutions to a health problem that afflicts one gender more than the other may benefit from considering the different factors influencing men and women’s behaviour when it comes to health.

By identifying the most important influencers and supporters by health condition, marketers will be better able to create relevant media and marketing strategies. Furthermore, the doctor / patient relationship is changing, with more patients turning to online sources for information or relying on word of mouth from friends and families. Consequently, the development of new influencers and supporters beyond the doctor could expand opportunities for marketers to reach and retain new consumers.

Americans vs. Canadians – are they really that different?
• The incidence of health conditions vary between Americans and Canadians, although the greatest difference noted is not in the conditions but in the health motivations that drive attitudes, emotions and interventions.

• The top reported health conditions in the US are heart-related disorders and seasonal allergies, while in Canada obesity and pain-related disorders are the primary reported conditions, with heart health following closely.

• Owing to the presence of a relatively economical Universal Healthcare System in Canada, Canadians’ motivation to maintain and enhance their health is more likely to be influenced by a doctor, resulting in a slightly higher usage of prescription medication. Contrastingly, American consumers focus more on the prevention of illness and the restoration of health, leading to higher usage of OTCs, including vitamins, minerals & supplements.

• Americans and Canadians also note differences in influencers: Canadians report pharmacists as being the most important influencer after a doctor, while Americans cite nurses and nurse practitioners before pharmacists.

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