How health systems are using segmentation
Many health system interviewees told us that their health systems have in the past tended to view the patient or customer through the lens of the physician. They noted that in recent years, this is starting to change. However, with consumers having more options on where they can get services and some payments being tied to the measure of consumer experience, the perspective has changed. Patients may be more inclined to move around to get the experience they want (for example, access to digital tools, short wait times, good customer services interactions). Segmentation is a component of a customer strategy that can support decisions about:
• Where to focus on new patient growth and which markets have potential
• How to deliver the best experience to different types of patients
• How to make various types of patients feel safe and understood
Considerations in developing a segmentation strategy include:
Securing loyalty, as patients have more choice on where to get their care. Clinical care is critical, but several other factors also influence patients’ choice of health care provider. Traditional static segmentation does not often work well for health care, because individuals move in and out of segments. And simple descriptive segmentation can be insufficient to drive health care action and growth planning. Rather, health systems have found that they benefit from leveraging existing nationally representative health care consumer survey data and refining segments using supplemental data and analytics.
Matching digital offerings with the right customers. Individuals vary greatly in their comfort and interest in using digital tools and technology. Since there are tech savvy people in all age, income, and demographic groups, health systems can use segmentation to develop a more nuanced understanding of preferences and comfort with using various virtual health interactions including: virtual visits, remote monitoring, patient portals to access medical records, and easy-to-navigate platforms to schedule appointments and communicate with their clinicians and office staff.
Understanding how to communicate in an in-person and virtual world. In both in-person and virtual visits, individuals say they want to feel heard and understood and be assured that the clinician is providing quality care. However, different segments of the population define those parts of care experience differently. Thus, health systems can use segmentation to help clinicians improve communication strategies in both face-to-face and virtual interactions with all types of consumers.
For health systems, one of the biggest challenges to shift clinicians into this new customer-focused mindset is to help them understand why it is important. Coming from marketers, this can be a tough sell to physicians. One interviewee said having “apostles” helps: Clinicians are more likely to buy in on changes from peers versus hearing a CEO talk about the importance. It will likely require a top-down approach as well as an iterative approach on the ground, showing physicians the data in small bites and focusing on small steps to help them improve.
How pharmaceutical companies are using segmentation
Traditionally, pharmaceutical companies have viewed physicians and clinicians as their primary customers, since their sales teams have a more direct line to the clinicians who are prescribing therapies, but that has changed in recent years. Pharma companies are marketing more products directly to patients to stimulate interest in options to improve their care. Patients often ask about new medicines and there are more opportunities through social media, apps, and other sources to connect with patient communities and explore different options.
Some goals that pharmaceutical companies are pursuing using segmentation include:
As drug development gets more personalized and complex, pharma companies want to understand which quality-of-life measures patients care about most.The physician is still an important stakeholder, but increasingly, patients are empowered about their health and aware of what they expect from a treatment. Regulators are also moving toward a more patient-centric approach, which has led to change in the industry. Regulators around the world are not only interested in a therapy’s biological impact, but also want companies to demonstrate that they are collecting data on the impact of the condition on the patients’ functioning and quality of life, their experience with treatments, input on which outcomes are important to them, and patient preferences for outcomes and treatments.
Prior Deloitte research showed that pharma companies are trying different strategies to get direct patient input, including hiring ethnographers to capture insights along the treatment journey, partnering with patient advocacy groups to create safe forums to hear directly from patients, and using digital solutions to collect passive data from patients over the long term.
To recruit for clinical trials, and to retain patients once enrolled, companies are working to make trials more patient-friendly and accessible to diverse populations. This means involving patients earlier in the process. As noted in Deloitte’s recent article, the search for a COVID-19 vaccine has spurred customers to seek more transparency in drug development. They want to know people who look like them were represented in trials. The pandemic has spurred more conversation around the importance of clinical trials—particularly within communities of color, which historically have not had adequate representation in trials.
Launching a new product vs. targeting a more mature product. For a new product with less competition, companies might focus on communicating in the consumer segments’ preferred medium to deepen their understanding of their condition and the treatment approach. This can even include having a common set of terms patients use. It is about giving consumers the most relevant platform by which they can engage with physicians.
For a more mature product,companies are trying to understand the unmet need in the market. The traditional pharma model was centered around the sales team that visits physician offices. That model has had to change with the pandemic, as more sales teams work from home and more physicians move to virtual visits. One stakeholder said that the pandemic was making them reconsider their model and their segmentation approach, since some of these changes could be permanent.
Using comprehensive survey data to identify consumer segments based on attitudes and behaviors
For the past decade, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions has surveyed large, nationally representative groups of consumers in the United States to learn more about their personal experiences and preferences related to health, health insurance, and health care. Using data from our 2020 survey, we conducted a customer segmentation analysis that focuses on health care attitudinal and behavior questions, rather than the more traditional method that uses customer demographics. The analysis categorized individuals into four groups that reflect their preferences for managing their health and interacting with various health care stakeholders. The emerging groups reminded us of the people who were a part of the American frontier during the 19th century. Using this frontier analogy, we describe the segments as follows:
- Trailblazers (tech-savvy, self-directed, engaged in wellness, willing to share data)
- Prospectors (rely on recommendation from friends/families, use providers as trusted advisors, willing to use technology)
- Homesteaders (reserved, cautious, traditionalists)
- Bystanders (complacent, tech-reluctant, resistant to change, unengaged)
According to our analyses, each of these four groups navigates the health care system differently and has different needs and expectations. This can be critical information in an environment of increasingly patient-centered care, premised upon individuals being active participants in managing in their health.
Our 2020 analysis asserts our previous findings that looking at just typical demographics would mean missing out on important nuance (figure 1).